Thanks to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund, I could attend the Topology Ecuador 2017 conference in the Galapagos Science Centre, San Cristóbal, Galápagos. The conference was four days of talks, presentations and interactive classes, starting on the 14th of August organised by the Universidad San Francisco de Quito covering a wide range of mathematical topics with the primary purpose of developing these fields.
What made this conference so engaging for me was the chance to learn more about complex mathematical biology, a continuation from my studies in forth year, and is something that I find incredibly fascinating. I found Katheryn Hess’s talk on the relationship between neuroscience and topology particularly interesting, and used core material from the Mathematical Biology course as the basis to build upon.
Moving forward as a graduate of the University and into a working career, I found new mathematical sub-divisions at this conference that particularly interested me and are something I would consider studying as a Postgraduate Masters at Edinburgh University. Mathematics has always been something I loved, and the Topology Ecuador conference has reaffirmed my enjoyment of the subject by demonstrating it out-with the University learning environment.
Before I left for the conference I had very much looked forward to listening to the key note speaker, Sara Azzali and her talk on Flat Bundles, R/Z-K-theory and Rho Invariants and I was very interested by her algebraic approach. Azzali promotes her Women in Mathematics exhibition tour, which looks at the difficulty of being a woman in the subject of mathematics, a predominately male subject. I found it refreshing and empowering to see the success of women in the field, and along with other female speakers, such as Claudia Scheimbauer and Kate Poirier, Azzali really emphasised the impact that women are having in modern mathematics.
Part of what made this trip so special to me was the setting. The Galápagos Islands are some of the most beautiful and fascinating places on Earth. The wildlife was so abundant and so fearless of humans, due to the limited number of predators on the islands I learned, and I often found myself having a coffee by the pier in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno with sea lions and pelicans almost in arms reach. Looking back, I feel I better understand what must have fascinated Charles Darwin about the place. The constant conservation efforts in the islands made me feel comforted in knowing that the Galápagos Islands will always be a unique place for scientists in all manner of fields.
This conference was truly unique, and it is unlikely I will have another chance to see as many esteemed scholars and speakers, in such an iconic place, ever again. I can’t thank the University of Edinburgh enough for allowing me this opportunity, I believe the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund is an extremely worthwhile cause and gives students, like myself, the chance to experience once in a lifetime events without worrying about finances and an experience I will definitely be sharing.