Young Researchers Learn from Each Other at HLF17

Despite the pride of being selected to the prestigious program “Heidelberg Laureate Forum,” what can a young researcher get out of this unique opportunity? It is a question which I always had and it always strikes my mind, “Will this be yet another presentation series followed by Q and A?”

I have been to many academic conferences which sometimes might not be that interesting since it has a very narrow focus or it might not be interactive in terms of socially and the program itself. In that case, the Heidelberg Laureate Forum is a very unique networking event for mathematicians and computer scientists from all over the world. This includes around 200 selected young researchers in computer science and mathematics. This is my first experience as a computer scientist being able to interact with mathematicians and with other computer scientists who are completely out of my domain.

This is how it began. I was nervously waiting outside of the registration hall of #HLF17, having my coffee, alone but craving to talking to someone, yet I was not ready to break the ice. I overheard a conversation about #CHI – the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Being part of that field and knowing that is the premier conference, I could not stop eavesdropping on the conversation of two young scientists. Well, I grabbed my chance to break the ice and made that a reason to join the conversation which I knew I have something in common. Suddenly, and luckily, it grew into a group of people and nothing about chi but it became a “lets go out and eat something”. Now there were about 20+ people, going for food, the front of the group synced with middle and back of the crowd synced together. The more we walked, we realized that in order to have a optimal discussion we need to have optimal number of people. Which means, with such a large group, it is quite difficult to have a meaningful conversation. Supported by the nature of human behavior, the back of the crowd dropped off and naturally we became an optimal group who can handle an effective conversation.

It was amazing that we were a great mix of computer science, mathematics and interdisciplinary. In the group was:

  1. Leilani Battle Post Doc university of Washington – Database visualization
  2. Jurgen Cito PhD student University of Zurich – techniques for Software engineers take decisions about their code by looking at the run time information
  3. Thomas Espitau PhD Student Sorbonnes University France – Algorithmic number theory, cryptography and formal verification
  4. Florian Kohl PhD Student Freie Universitat Berlin Germany – Maths Lattice polytopes and Ehrhart theory
  5. Fred Morstatter Post Doc USC Information Science Institute USA- Statistic and Machine learning
  6. Mark Santolucito PhD student Yale – Program Synthesis
  7. Pedro Nicolas Tamaroff PhD Student Trinity Colledge Ireland Maths- combinatorics, homogical and homotopical algebra
  8. Michelle Julia PhD Student Washington University Computer Science Education

In my experience, people learn best when they experience and personalize the information relative to their mind. For example, it is different the way we understand abstract things, such as one can teach you addition by saying 1+1 is two. But you can also personalize the same thing by saying, see you already have one toffee in your hand and if I give you another one, all together it becomes two. This statement becomes personal and it includes the context of your status which gives you a greater understanding. Likewise, the table we had was full of conversations how algorithms and program synthesis affect the databases, how algorithms affect the programming and how algebra and metrics, which gave a greater insight to each field in a way that we could understand most disciplines which we were not clear before. Not only that, but also what other great conferences, the conferences’ purposes, why the citations, how the research world works and a lot of tacit knowledge being exchanged. Otherwise, the nature of that networking time would have, in theory, been boring. Yet, a bunch of us made a great conversation out of personal knowledge and utilized the most powerful learning experience in order to learn complex things in a hour.

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