Entrance hall of the ICMSApplications of operator algebras: order, disorder and symmetry

In June 2017, ICMS hosted a workshop on Applications of operator algebras: order, disorder and symmetry 

Operator algebras have played a fundamental role in a diverse range of subjects including dynamical systems, group theory, aperiodic tilings and number theory. This workshop brought together researchers from within, and outwith, the theory of operator algebras. This workshop aims to inspire new collaborations and will provide an opportunity for young researchers to expand their horizons.


Delegates from the Applications of operator algebras: order, disorder and symmetry workshop, June 2017

Another busy week at ICMS!  There was a public lecture by Aidan Sims, University of Wollongong,  Strange bedfellows: what do quantum mechanics, Google search, number theory, and tertiary admissions rankings have in common? If you missed out, you can find a video of the public lecture here.


Aidan Sims, explaining matrix transformations and Australian student rankings

Whilst the workshop was on, we took the opportunity to speak to some of the delegates.

Sarah Browne, University of Sheffield

Sarah is a PhD student in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield, under the supervision of Paul Mitchener

Tell me about today's event and your role in it

The event included an expansive selection of fields of research, from functional analysis to geometric group theory. Although all talks related to one and other on the over arching theme of operator algebras, the meeting itself had a diverse range of areas. I was there as an invited speaker, sharing my research completed during my PhD on operator algebras and topology.

What brought you to this area of research?

This area of research was inspired during my masters year at university. I always found analysis a mental challenge and like the rigour of the subject. I met my supervisor and we discussed the possibility of working with operator algebras and looking at a topological framework thereafter, this appealed to me since it was broad in nature.

Other than exploring maths, what are the benefits of taking part?     

I got to meet people from locations around the world, it was a global conference of researchers. The possibility of meeting people from Australia, America etc doesn't happen very often so close to home. It gave me a wider audience to share my work with and also an opportunity talk more about it, and see further ways it could go in the future.

What will you take back to your [day job/research/studies]?

I will take back some future plans for research and ideas that could create new results. Also I have different perspectives on my area of research and realise that it is more diverse than I ever thought. After talking to a fellow academic at the conference, I have a new idea to explore too. It may answer a question I have had for a while.

Have you met interesting people, and if so, what connections have you made?

Lots, I saw people I have met in the past but made new connections too. In particular I met people from the US and since I am moving there for a postdoctoral position it is likely I will meet them again soon and the slight chance of a talk invitation. Also I discussed some work that could become a collaboration.

Do you have any advice for first-time ICMS attendees? 

Yes, make the most of your time at the ICMS. Ask questions and talk to different people, choose different tables at lunch and the conversation will flow. Let people know what you are working on, and take the opportunity to create new contacts and ideas. You never know when you may want to email them, or when you will see them again. Ideas are so useful too, I always find conferences a creative period of time.

Have you been to many other conferences? How does ICMS differ?

Yes, I have been to quite a number of conferences but none like the ICMS one. It was nice that it was in a building that where we could use different rooms. Also since lunch was provided most days it meant you got an opportunity to talk to all people attending the conference.

If you could solve one maths problem, what would it be?

I would like to make some progress on the Universal Coefficient Theorem(UCT) for C*-algebras. Recent research in the field depends on the UCT and it would be good to make some progress if any on this result. Someone will prove it, just depends who and when they do it.

Do you have any thoughts regarding how we can raise the profile of maths?

I suggest more public lecture. The public lecture that Professor Aidan Sims did during our conference was great. I enjoyed it and found it inspiring even though I very rarely look at the application of my work to the real world. 

Do you have any thought on how diversity in mathematics can be improved?

Mathematics seems very much a male dominated environment but I have to say that this conference had more than the normal amount of women in its audience. This has to be a thank you to the organisers for making a conference as diverse as this one in this respect. Also it was diverse by having a huge range of nationalities and universities worldwide. The diversity is getting better, but I think by inspiring all from a young age and raising the profile of maths, this would help further.

Who is your favourite mathematician and why?

A favourite is hard, I have never thought of such a thing. Probably David Hilbert, I often talk about his infinite hotel with school children, and Hilbert spaces form a fundamental part of my work. Also his quote, 'Mathematics knows no races or geographical boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country' just highlights that the subject is shared among us all. 

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