Prelude to HLF 2013
The Big Bang
After three planes, two trains and two buses, I finally made it to the picturesque city of Heidelberg. Actually, I got here three days ago, but the 31 hours spent in transit from Canberra was enough to temporarily put me off doing anything that wasn’t directly related to sleep.
However, yesterday saw the beginning of the first ever Heidelberg Laureate Forum. The gathering of 40 masterminds and 200 young researchers began with a bang, the opening ceremony framed by the funky stylings of a local saxophone quartet. And as if this wasn’t enough to keep us clicking our fingers, the evening ended with a memorable charity concert of the SAP Symphony Orchestra.
Indeed, this week has started its proceedings in the most exciting way possible. For the duration of this week, I shall give it my absolute best to provide the readers of this blog a unique view into the HLF from the perspective of a young researcher. As such, I will be endeavouring to write at least one entry each day to give some highlights and share the spoils of the forum as it unfolds.
The lectures, workshops and discussions kick off today, and so I reckon this is a good time to reflect on everything leading up to this big week.
I was kindly encouraged to apply to the HLF by my PhD supervisor. It certainly looked exciting, and so I slaved away on the extensive online application until I was finally able to hit submit and put my feet up.
However, It wasn’t long after when I received an email from the Australian Academy of Science, who wished to nominate me for an invitation to the forum. This was fantastic news, as nominations via scientific academies were more highly regarded by the selection panel than were individual applications.
Sadly, it meant writing a brand new application, and in the space of two days! Things soon looked up, however, as I was able to use my undergraduate training in cutting and pasting text to get it in on time.
In total, 600 young researchers applied to participate in the first ever HLF, and I was blown away when I received one of only 200 invitations. The selection process took some time, with each application receiving between 3 and 5 reviews from a group of close to 30 reviewers.
Included in my official invitation letter was a guarantee of free hotel accommodation (including breakfast!) for up to seven days. I was also informed that my badge (which I am currently wearing) gets me a free buffet lunch every day at Marstall Cafeteria. In short, I was pretty much covered for accommodation and food.
As an Australian, the Science and Industry Endowment Fund kindly stepped in and offered me a travel grant to cover my travel costs. This was a huge relief, as it meant that I was basically covered for the whole venture.
The Upcoming Experience
Over the mornings of this week, I will get to participate in a range of plenary lectures from Fields medallists, Abel and Nevanlinna prize winners and Turing awardees. These lectures will cover a range of topics; the point of them not being scientific depth but rather networking, career advice and just about anything else the laureates feel the urge to share with budding mathematicians and computer scientists.
There will be workshops run by participating postdoctoral candidates on most afternoons, as well as panel discussions held by the laureates. Also, each day will be flourished by one of many social events. These include a boat trip on the River Neckar, dinner at Schwetzingen Castle, an Oktoberfest-style get-together, and a farewell ceremony and dinner at Heidelberg castle on the Friday night.
The overall theme is inspiration, delivered through shared experiences between the great and the young. There is certainly no denying the anticipatory buzz in the air, for the upcoming week will arguably be the largest gathering of leading mathematicians and computer scientists to ever take place.