Faculty Plans International Conference to Attract Elite Mathematicians from Around the World

Former Ohio State Ph.D colleagues Wai Kiu “Billy” Chan, associate professor of mathematics, and Maria Ines Icaza of Universidad de Talca in Chile, met for two weeks in September at Wesleyan to collaborate on planning a mathematics conference.
Posted 10/02/07
A Wesleyan mathematics faculty member is helping to organize an international conference in Chile that will be only the second of its kind ever held.

Wai Kiu “Billy” Chan, associate professor of mathematics, is co-organizing the International Conference on The Algebraic and Arithmetic Theory of Quadratic Forms 2007. The event will be attended by elite mathematicians from around the world Dec. 13-19 near Lake Llanquihue in the southern part of the country.

“The purpose of the conference is to get together and exchange ideas,” Chan says. “Although we do write back and forth through e-mail, mathematicians prefer to get together in person and communicate that way.”

Chan is one of six conference organizers, and has teamed up with Maria Ines Icaza, associate professor and director of The Institute of Mathematics at Universidad de Talca in Chile. In September, Icaza visited Wesleyan for two weeks and worked with Chan on conference planning and a future publication.

This is the second quadratic forms international conference in history. The first was held in 2002. Chan spoke at that conference on “’Positive ternary quadratic forms with finitely many exceptions.”

Chan and Icaza attended The Ohio State University and worked under the same Ph.D advisor. They’ve been collaborating on several research projects funded by the National Science Foundation and National Security Agency of US, and Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Cientifico y Tecnologico (FONDECYT) of Chile.

The colleagues’ conference is an integral part of Chile’s 2008 bicentennial celebration.

“One of our country’s goals is to support an economy and society based on new ways of thinking when it comes to math, sciences and technology,” Icaza says.

The Chilean Science Foundation created the Programa Bicentenario de Ciencia y Tecnologia (PBCT), or the Bicentennial Program in Science and Technology. This program is funding the international conference with a $900,000 grant.

The conference organizers are using these funds to invite attendees from all over the world. In addition to Chan and Icaza’s U.S. and Chile origins, the other organizers come from University of Bordeaux in France, University of Nottingham in England; Bielefeld University and University of Saarlandes in Germany.

About 85 participants have confirmed they will be attending, although only a select few will speak at the conference. All attendees are professors, post doctoral researchers and graduate students. English will be the language used to communicate at the conference.

“This is a very selective conference, and our speakers will be among the best mathematicians in the world,” he says.

The Quadratic Forms 2007 conference was one of 15 science-related projects funded by the PBCT. Forty-seven applications were refereed by a selected group on scientists from all over the world including researchers in biology, chemistry physics and mathematics.

As part of Chile’s Bicentennial Program in Science and Technology, Chan was not only asked to be part of the conference’s organizing committee, but to participate on a long-term collaboration with mathematicians from Universidad de Talca.

“Professor Chan’s participation as well as the participation of the other international collaborators makes our projects strong and suitable to achieve the PBCT goals on developing research in science in Chile,” Icaza says.

This year, Chan’s former student, Anna Rokicki, who earned a Ph.D from Wesleyan in 2005, will attend the conference.

For more information on the International Conference on The Algebraic and Arithmetic Theory of Quadratic Forms, go to http://inst-mat.utalca.cl/qfc2007/.

By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor