In November, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s School of Mathematics and Physics hosted the Suzhou Area Youth Mathematicians Annual Workshop at the Dushu Lake Grand Hotel. It is the first time XJTLU have been the organisers of this event.
“We don’t do research on a deserted island,” says Dr Adam-Christiaan van Roosmalen, Assistant Professor at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, who participated in the two-day workshop. “It’s nice to know who is around, what they are working on and learn from interacting with other researchers.”
Mathematicians from five Suzhou universities attended the workshop: XJTLU, Duke Kunshan University, Soochow University, Suzhou University of Science and Technology, and the University of Science and Technology of China.
The annual workshop began in 2020 and is hosted by a different university each year. The first event was initiated by Professor Jingrun Chen, Dr Shengxin Zhu, and Dr Shixin Xuand held at Duke Kunshan University. Soochow University hosted the second in 2021.
The 2022 Suzhou Area Youth Mathematicians Annual Workshop features mathematicians from five universities in Suzhou: XJTLU, Duke Kunshan University, Soochow University, Suzhou University of Science and Technology and the University of Science and Technology of China
Dr Simon Lloyd, Head of XJTLU’s Department of Pure Mathematics, and one of the organisers of this year’s workshop, sums up the importance of this event.
“Research depends on collaboration and bringing together people with different ideas. This is what leads to discoveries. This workshop helps to encourage more collaboration and joint projects between researchers at the different universities.”
Dr Ruonan Zhang, an Assistant Professor from XJTLU, explains why talking to people from different areas of mathematics assists with her research.
“Sometimes you get stuck when trying to solve a particular problem by yourself. Everyone needs fresh ideas from time to time, and these come from talking to and supporting each other.”
Dr Lloyd and Dr Zhang in discussion during the coffee break
Dr Konstantinos Efstathiou is the Co-Director of the Zu Chongzhi Research Center for Mathematics and Computational Science at Duke Kunshan University. He says one of the benefits to an event like this is the number of different institutions participating in the workshop.
“It’s good to know the main research topics people are concentrating on across the universities. The culture, interactions and environment at these events inform you about the important problems in mathematics being worked on at the moment.”
Dr Efstathiou gave one of the 18 talks presented during the weekend workshop
Due to the pandemic, many workshops and conferences have been held online. However, there are many advantages to in-person events, says Dr Efstathiou.
“The importance of being at a conference is not only about the talks; it’s about the informal discussions, the coffee breaks. That’s when you can start to build collaborations; you get to know someone and their work. This doesn’t happen when the conference is online.”
Dr Alejandro Vidal, Head of XJTLU’s Department of Applied Mathematics and co-organiser of this year’s event, says: “When you teach a student about mathematics, you need to show them that mathematics is not about locking yourself in a room and studying from a book. It’s about talking to others and sharing the feeling of ‘we don’t know how to solve this’.
“The workshop allows the universities to showcase what we do, and all the areas that we have, and you get to know people working in different areas of mathematics – this makes the whole experience richer.
Dr Vidal is one of the organisers of this year’s workshop hosted by XJTLU
“These events are also a way of making Suzhou stronger,” continues Dr Vidal. “By creating collaborations between the institutions here, the strength of our mathematical research can hopefully be reflected in society, maybe via collaborations with industry or by organising more events for the public.
“It generally takes much longer to see the benefits of mathematics for society, say, compared to research on medical treatments, but maths is everywhere and needed in all aspects of life.”
The event was successfully held thanks to the cooperation between the participating universities and additional organisation by Dr Qiang Niu from XJTLU, Dr Shixin Xu from Duke Kunshan University, and Professor Zhongwen Chen at Soochow University.
By Catherine Diamond and Liu He
Edited by Patricia Pieterse