2018 Field of Dreams Conference Review

Conference Information:
November 1-3, 2018
Location: Renaissance Airport Hotel, St. Louis

Conference Presentations

Conference Review:

We are pleased to report another successful Field of Dreams Conference! This year’s conference was once again held, at the Renaissance Airport Hotel, in St. Louis, Missouri. This year’s Field of Dreams was packed with activities and the students and faculty were exposed to a wide variety of topics and sessions. Over 370 participants, including 189 Predoctoral Scholars, 39 PhD students, 130 faculty, and many other representatives, were in attendance from over 131 universities, colleges, and organizations nationwide. There is a map that shows where all the conference participants traveled from on the next page. A special mention to our Alliance Scholars who traveled all the way from Hawaii and Puerto Rico!!
For the second year, the conference kicked off with a full day schedule on Friday. Following our opening remarks, we were treated to our annual Fields of Success panel, where Alliance PhD’s told us their stories. We are always glad to see the very real impact of our Alliance on the success of our students. The rest of the morning the undergraduate students learned about maximizing opportunities and the graduate students learned how to prepare for their first professional position. Faculty members in attendance heard from Prof. William Vèlez and Prof. Erica Walker on how to mentor at the undergraduate level. The afternoon started with the students learning about career options in government and industry and there was an introduction to the Mathematical Sciences Professional Organizations for the faculty. We were treated to a Connections Lecture, given by Prof. Cristina Villalobos, of the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, describing mathematical applications to antennae design. The rest of Friday afternoon there was a Career Fair for the recent and soon to be Math Alliance PhD alumni that are in the job market. There was also the annual REU fair for undergraduates looking for summer research opportunities.

Saturday morning, we had our annual Math Sciences Lecture, delivered by Prof. Peter Sarnak, from Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Studies, on “Navigating PU(2) with Golden Gates,” describing “optimal generators” for this topological group, having properties analogous to the golden mean for the unit circle. The rest of the morning and early afternoon were taken up with a wide variety of panels, as well as our “What Is…” talks, delivered by representatives of the NSF funded Mathematical Sciences Institutes and representatives of the NSA. Saturday afternoon concluded with the annual Graduate Department Fair, with over 60 tables featuring graduate programs looking to recruit our Math Alliance scholars. Our student activities were capped by the Saturday night banquet and keynote address by Prof. Rodrigo Bañuelos, of Purdue University, who gave a wonderful and inspirational talk, describing his improbable path in life, and how seemingly small and unlikely events can impact ones life. Sunday morning, the faculty held their annual meeting to discuss the state and direction of the Alliance.

The conference leaves us feeling renewed in our commitment to our goals and we will be working to create an even more successful conference next year. We came away with a lot of good suggestions for improving our activities throughout the year, as well as ideas for future conference activities. We had a videographer documenting a great deal of the conference, and we hope to have videos posted to our website soon!! We will let you know when they go up. We are looking forward to next year’s conference (November 15-17, in St. Louis) and hope you’ll all be joining us there!

We would like to thank everyone who helped prior and during the conference. We would like to thank all our Center Partners, Members, and sponsors for making this conference our best one yet!! Check out our Flickr site for photos from this years’ and past years’ Field of Dreams Conferences. If you’d like to share your stories or photos from the conference send them to mathalliance@purdue.edu.