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It All Adds Up… The conference for women in Maths!

Last week I attended a conference at Oxford University for women in the mathematical sciences, which was run by the London Mathematical Society. Can’t wait to tell you all about it!

I heard about the conference from an email that was sent round every one in our year advertising the event, which was free for students. I applied to attend and  was successful in getting a place, overnight accommodation in Balliol college and a ticket to the conference dinner. I also applied to submit a poster to the event on my research project I’ve been doing at work, which was accepted too!

So last week I set off at 6.30 from Cathays and arrived in Oxford ready for the 2 day event!

The first lecture we had was from the woman who has just won the Senior Anne Bennet prize, discussing some of the theory behind the work of Maryam Mirzakhani, a mathematician who recently became the first woman to win the Fields Medal – often described as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics. It was all about hyperbolic geometry and was really interesting – if a little complex!

The rest of the day was taken up with a series of panel talks and presentations, all led by women who were leaders in their field – it was so interesting and really inspiring to hear from so many fantastic female mathematicians. Topics of the talks included managing ‘big data’ (from a HP researcher), a panel on what you can do with a PhD in Maths (main point: use your research to make positive change, not help Facebook make people buy things they don’t need…), and a talk from an epidemiologist who was on the response team for the Ebola crisis.

After a day of fantastic talks it was time to head over to Balliol for the conference dinner. Pretty much every one who was attending came along, and it really was something else. First let me show you what Balliol actually looks like…

And the hall where we had the conference dinner (and breakfast) was basically the Great Hall from Harry Potter…

So I had dinner in the hall, with some people I’d met during the day who were also solo undergrads at the conference. It was really cool to meet people who were from different universities and find out a bit more about their experience of their course.

Day 2 had a really cool talk about modelling sand dunes in the desert! It was amazing to see how applied maths can really be, to the extent that this particular research had actually got to go on trips to the desert to investigate her calculations. There was also a talk by the president of the Association for Women in Maths on her work as the head of the Cryptology unit at Microsoft Research, all about what the problems will be for online security once quantum computers exist.

At the end of the conference the winners were announced for the poster competitions, where there was an undergraduate and postgraduate category. I was so excited because I won the Undergraduate category! The main piece of advice I had when I was making my poster was to keep it simple, which I tried to stick to – apparently it went down well! Here is a sneaky picture of me with my poster at the event…

All in all it was very successful for my first conference – I had a fantastic time! If anyone gets a chance to go to a conference for their subject I would very highly recommend it, I met so many great new people and got a whole new perspective on my subject which was fantastic.  I’ll be looking out for the next event :)

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