On the road to HLF14

BLOG: Heidelberg Laureate Forum

Laureates of mathematics and computer science meet the next generation
Heidelberg Laureate Forum

Anna Valmero, HLF14 participant: All roads lead to Heidelberg these days in September – to the Second Heidelberg Laureate Forum. And I am grateful for the opportunity to attend and cover the event this year.

The Heidelberg Laureate Forum is an annual meeting of the best minds in the fields of mathematics and computing. As a young journalist covering science and information technology (IT) over the past couple of years, I must say that earning a spot to be at the event is a huge milestone and opportunity. My mission is simple: produce stories that can hopefully inspire more students to find the joy of studying computer science, mathematics or other science topics.

This is necessary as still too many people have some love-and-hate relationship with mathematics and studying coding or programming seems to be troublesome as well.

Looking at the list of laureates composed of Abel, Fields and Turing Awardees in mathematics and computer sciences —comparable to Nobel laureates in chemistry or physics —is surely intimidating. As I hope to interview some of them during the sidelines of the event I already have spent most of my recent weekends and summer nights reviewing the biography of them. Curiously I was also opening another browser tab to look up their technical researches and gain a basic understanding of their contributions to society.

I am from the Philippines and optimistic that the lectures at #HLF14 will help shed light on some lessons and case studies also for my home country to be more globally competitive, especially with the 2015 ASEAN economic integration. As in today’s knowledge economy, computing and mathematics provide strong foundations for innovation, especially for developing and emerging economies.

The abundance of information about the laureates also made me think of one of my favorite heroes, Filipino novelist and national hero Jose Rizal. Interestingly, Rizal was thought of as a Renaissance man during his era, dabbling in both sciences and literature. As a student he spent some time in Heidelberg in 1886, learned the German language and trained in ophthalmology. I recommend reading a poem written by him entitled, “To The Flowers of Heidelberg.” I would like to quote the first lines:

 Go to my country, go, O foreign flowers,

sown by the traveler along the road,

and under that blue heaven

that watches over my loved ones,

recount the devotion

the pilgrim nurses for his native sod!

Jose Rizal

Taking inspiration from Rizal’s curiosity and love for knowledge, I am travelling to Heidelberg armed with much gusto to learn from the laureates, their inspiration and how they keep a habit of excellence to become rock stars in their respective fields. I personally am looking forward to meeting Vint Cerf (whom I have read way back in high school and college for computer science subjects), Ivan Sutherland and Sir Michael Atiyah, among others.

The pursuit to understand how the world works can be a lifelong endeavor. And the process starts by coming up with an idea. And the first step to do that is—to borrow the words of Turing Awardee and inventor of the first interactive computer graphics interface Ivan Sutherland—“to write it down.”

So here’s an idea for my revised mission: I will learn from the attendees at the event and turn those conversations into regular live tweets, HLF blogs and photos. By October, I will share the experience (distilled in those posts) to Manila high school students whom I will be visiting, in hopes of planting seeds of inspiration that learning can be a fun and playful endeavor. And if they keep at it and get lucky, they can even meet the heroes they used to only read in books. And that would be fun!

So here’s to one awesome week of knowledge sharing and fun!

Anna Valmero
Anna Valmero

Anna Valmero is a Filipina journalist based in Manila, Philippines. She covers science, environment, youth and climate change stories in the Philippines and Asia. She is a member of the Philippine Science Journalists Association, Inc. and an awarded fellow of different organizations. She recently served as editor of the European Youth Press Orange Magazine during the 2014 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum held in Bonn. Twitter: @annavalmero

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