Entrance hall of the ICMSSymplectic Geometry and Topology

In July 2016, ICMS hosted a workshop on Symplectic geometry and topology .

Symplectic topology is a rapidly developing branch of mathematics, which originated as a geometric tool for understanding qualitative problems of classical mechanics and geometric optics. Symplectic manifolds represent the phase spaces of mechanical systems, and their morphisms play the role of admissible motions. Gromov understood that holomorphic curves can be used to study symplectic manifolds and Hamiltonian systems. The meeting will create new communications and collaborations between symplectic topologists with different background.

The conference was in honour of Dusa McDuff's 70th birthday.

Delegates at the Symplectic geometry and topology workshop, 2016


It was a busy week with 28 talks and sell-out evening lecture by John Milnor entitled Real and Complex Cubic Curves.  We were able to record this lecture and for those of you interested in re-visiting the talk, it can be downloaded from the workshop website.

Sir Michael Atiyah (left) introducing John Milnor’s talk (right)



Whilst the workshop was on, we took the opportunity to speak to the delegates in a bit more detail.

Dmitry Tonkonog, University of Cambridge

Dmitry grew up in Moscow, Russia.  He did his undergraduate degree at Moscow State University, followed by a PhD at Cambridge.  He has just completed his PhD and will move to Uppsala University for 1 year to undertake a post-doc position.  After that, he will move to UC Berkeley for a further 2-3 year post-doc position.  Although he will miss Cambridge, he will continue to work with his Cambridge-based collaborators.

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

I am listening to the talks, but not speaking at this event.  It is an opportunity to hear many inspiring researchers, e.g. several eminent speakers from the US.  This workshop is a great opportunity to speak with them.

What brought you to this area of research?

As an undergraduate I heard of this fast-developing modern area of research.  No-one in Moscow was working in this field, which made it even more interesting and a challenge to move and find out more. 

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

Edinburgh is a great city.  The location of ICMS, in the city centre, is great and a real asset.

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

All of the talks are very interesting, but several of the talks have been really inspiring for the projects I’m currently working on.

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

Yes, I knew most of the participants beforehand because we are a relatively well-connected community.  As the field is developing really fast it is important to meet with these people regularly to keep up to date.  There has been lots of 2016 results included in the talks and it is important to ensure you are continuously updated.

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

This is my 2nd time at ICMS, I was here 4 years ago when I was finishing my undergraduate studies in Moscow.  Make the most of your time in Edinburgh!  Climb Arthur’s seat or visit the theatre.

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

Yes, this is my 4th conference in 2016, which is higher than I’ve been to in previous years.  The meetings are fairly similar in nature with maths at a high level. 

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

There are several problems which keep me busy at the moment.  I’d like to solve a particular instance of homological mirror symmetry conjecture which was first predicted by physicists and has been given a mathematical formulation via the work of several important mathematicians.

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

It is certainly difficult, and I feel that we should experiment more with the ways we can interact with the general audiences.  Public lectures for a broad audience help. It is a real skill for a mathematician to be able to do this.

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

I’m not sure, but this field for instance is very international.  There are strong groups in Hong Kong and Japan and it would be good to have the ability to interact with them more.  There is a speaker from one of those groups at this workshop and this will be there first time I’ve heard him give a talk. 

Who is your favourite mathematician and why?

One of the reasons I value maths is that it is being developed/advanced by the whole community.  There are lots of inspirational people who have contributed but I prefer not to identify a favourite.