Conference madness, part I: Journees Arithmetiques

I have spent the past three weeks attending back-to-back conferences (hence the title and lack of blog posts). I thought that instead of cramming all of the experiences into one long post, I would write about them separately this week. The plan is to write one post a day for the next three days, describing my July conference experiences. Hence, today I will tell you about the Journees Arithmetiques, which I attended from July 1 to July 5, in Grenoble, France.

View of Grenoble from the Bastille. From left to right: Olivier Robert, Frank Thorne, Thomas Wright, Guillermo Mantilla-Soler, Cassie Williams, and Patrick Rault.

View of Grenoble from the Bastille. From left to right: Olivier Robert, Frank Thorne, Thomas Wright, Guillermo Mantilla-Soler, Cassie Williams, and Patrick Rault.

The Journees Arithmetiques are held in Europe every other year, alternating between French and non-French venues. It is one of the largest international number theory conferences, and it was very fun to run into many friends and acquaintances, and to even meet a few new people. It had a very familiar structure (similar to the Joint Meetings and others like it), with plenary talks in the morning and special sessions in the afternoon. There was an evening talk on Wednesday by Yuri Manin, which was particularly great. I again felt math star-struck, and even though I thought the talk wasn’t as accessible to the general public as it was billed it would be, I still found it very interesting. But I mean, any time you hear talk of the field of one element, you know you’re in for a fun ride. Tied with Manin’s for favorite plenary talk was Francis Brown‘s talk on “Quantum Field Theory and Arithmetic”, mainly for all the new cool stuff I learned. I also really enjoyed the talks by Rachel Pries, Henri Cohen, and Alex Kontorovich.

Garden and fountains of the castle where we had the banquet.

Garden and fountains of the castle where we had the banquet.

One exciting surprise was on the first day, when we were told that we may be special session chairs, and the way to find out was to look through the conference program. I know because I mentioned this to a few people that not everyone heard this early-morning announcement, and in fact a few of the special sessions found themselves chair-less. But mostly, this worked fine. I was on the list, and so it was that I chaired a session for the first time. It wasn’t too hard, but I had trouble letting people know when they were going over their allotted time (I guess I need to be a bit less mousy?). My favorite part though is that, in French, you say “President de session”, which sounds way cooler than session chair. I mean, between being president and a piece of furniture, which would you rather be? I also joked that, being Venezuelan, I may just stay as president for however long I please (good thing my session was on Thursday, real close to the end of the conference).

There may have been no wifi (or pillows, or towels...) but the view from my room at the student residence was spectacular.

There may have been no wifi (or pillows, or towels…) but the view from my room at the student residence was spectacular.

I was in the strange situation of giving the last talk of the last day. It was weird because a lot of people had already left the conference, and the people who were still there were very tired. I guess I was in pretty good shape as many people still showed up, and of the ones who did, only a few fell asleep. A couple of people even said they enjoyed my talk, so that was nice. Not so nice was being told that my talk was very hard, but that I looked really nice in that dress. Yeah, that still happens to female mathematicians.

Overall, the conference was a great experience. My only gripe was probably the lack of internet in the guest residence, but otherwise everything ran quite smoothly. I had fun at the conference, but also exploring Grenoble with friends, eating some very delicious food downtown, and even taking a little time to see Robert Doisneau‘s early photography at the local museum. The conference banquet was at a spectacular location (a castle! pictured above), and the food was very good.

 

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