A few weeks ago, at the beginning of January, I was fortunate enough to attend the Joint Math Meetings (JMM) in Boston. The meetings are an annual math conference hosted by the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) consisting of thousands of talks, mini-courses, poster sessions, and panels and are the biggest gathering of mathematicians in America each year. I attended this year for the first time with over 7,000 other mathematicians and can’t wait to go next year!
This past summer I participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Central Michigan University and as part of our NSF grant we decided to attend the JMM. My 20 friends from the summer and our advisors flew in from all over the country, while I drove 2 short hours from Connecticut, to reunite in Boston. My research group was fortunate enough to give a talk and present a poster on our research during the meetings. Apart from our 10 minute talk and 2 hour poster session, we were free to go to panels, attend sessions, and visit exhibits; that’s where the real fun began.
It takes quite a bit of nerdiness to like math, and there was definitely plenty of that to go around at the meetings. Imagine 7,000 mathematicians walking around the Prudential center in Boston, taking over Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, the Marriot, Sheraton, and many other stores and locations. I wonder what was running through the minds of baristas, hotel staff, and store owners as thousands of mathematicians milled about… At first I was intimidated but very quickly began to feel at home. The reality of it is that the math world is pretty small and the meetings become an annual family reunion of sorts. Even as an undergraduate I was reconnecting with ‘old’ math friends from my REU and alum of Stonehill’s math department. My math family has already begun to take form and I haven’t even gotten into graduate school yet!
Not only did I get to spend time with friends, but I learned and networked. A lot. We attended many interesting sessions including one titled “Benjamin Franklin’s Magic” and a session on Algebraic Topology. Imagine sitting through 15 minutes of “Homotopy Kac-Moody groups and infinite pseudoreflection groups”; we didn’t understand much of that lecture to say the least. A highlight of the meetings is always the Gibbs Lecture, which is an invited address geared towards sharing some of the greatest contributions mathematics has made to modern day thinking, was given by Professor Bradley Efron. Fun fact: Einstein gave the Gibbs Lecture at the JMM in 1934! I also had the opportunity to attend a graduate school fair where I met with representatives from several Ph.D. programs and heard about their programs while they got to meet me as well.
Overall the meetings were a phenomenal experience. I felt so at home among people who think, learn, and love the same thing I do. It is not every day that you can get a room full of hundreds of people laughing at some stereotypical corny math joke. I’ve found what I want to do when I grow up; I want to be a mathematician. Oh, and the best part: the meetings are in San Diego next year…sweet!!