Waltzing around Vienna

At the end of August I had the incredible opportunity to visit Vienna for the week-long conference Computational Methods in Applied Mathematics (CMAM) 2022.

October 13 2022

Too long, didn't read

Travelling for work is amazing, and you should definitely go find an international conference right now! At the end of August I had the incredible opportunity to visit Vienna for the week-long conference Computational Methods in Applied Mathematics (CMAM) 2022. I travelled with another of my supervisor's students, and had a great time despite my arrival at Bristol airport twelve hours early for a two hour flight... (better to be safe than sorry!).

The work part

The focus of the event was mainly on the design and use of numerical methods (mostly finite element methods) in a variety of contexts. It was the biggest conference I've been to so far, with around 150 attendees, and the main format was parallel themed minisymposia throughout the week interspersed with a number of plenary talks. Upon arrival we were given a welcome pack with a printed program, lanyard, pen, and paper. It even had an attendance certificate, which I wasn't expecting and thought was fun! The program was definitely useful, and I took a few minutes in the first coffee break to decide what talks I wanted to see (essential given the parallel sessions).

The minisymposium on "approximating and discretising with structure" was particularly related to my PhD work, so I prioritised that, and I took plenty of notes on good ideas to +steal+ incorporate into my research. It was really inspiring to hear talks from people whose names I've only seen mentioned in papers before! However, sitting through back to back talks is tiring, and towards the end of the week I did find myself needing a break. I took Thursday afternoon off to do some PhD work and have a bit of a reset - luckily I was able to do this because the main talks I wanted to see had been earlier in the week. Friday was a shorter day as the conference came to an end, and we were able to relax before heading home.

Kafee und Kuchen

Arguably almost as important as the conference talks, the non-maths side of things was also incredibly rewarding. I'm not ashamed to say that one of the most memorable parts of the conference for me was the amount of coffee and cake I consumed (on a /completely/ unrelated note, I also decided that eating 100% vegan food was less important to me in this particular week...).

Each day we had two half-hour coffee breaks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, where a lot of amazing sweet treats were brought out, and we were able to network and chat to speakers and other attendees. We also went for lunch with some of the people we met whilst we were there, and this was a great way to break the ice a little and get the conversation flowing.

Despite my lack of adherence to the strict veganism, we actually found a fair few good vegan options in the city centre (special shout out to Gorilla Kitchen for the immaculate vibes). The wine reception on the first evening and the conference dinner on Thursday were also great opportunities to network, and we chatted to a couple of fairly big-names in the field, which was exciting!

Full tourist mode

After the conference finished on Friday afternoon we had about a day and a half to see the sights of Vienna. Throughout the week, we had seen some of the closer things in the evening, such as the Belvedere palace gardens (see image), but on Friday night we did a walking tour of the old city to broaden our horizons (and rack up some serious steps on the pedometer!). This guided tour was a great way to see some of the hidden spots and hear the history of the city from a someone in the know.

On Saturday we went to an art museum and walked to the Danube (a lot further than it looks on the map), with our path accidentally leading us through the middle of the annual Austrian communist festival. Come Sunday morning it was sadly time to return to the UK after a tiring but interesting and fun week. I know this isn't meant to be a review, but my strong recommendation: give international conferences a (Viennese) whirl!!

 

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