Women at WiMiN!

This past Saturday, I attended the Women in Mathematics in New England (WiMiN) conference at Smith College. It is a one day conference geared towards women, especially undergraduates and post-baccalaureates, and this was my third year attending. Something that’s very exciting about this conference is that it’s a conference organized by women for women. Some of the highlights of the conference include the Set contest, the plenary talks, and the beautiful botanical garden at Smith College.

The Set contest happens every year, and the rules are as follows. Every participant was given a set card to wear throughout the conference, and a competition sheet. The goal was to form sets with other people. There was also the notion of a superset, which happened when the people forming the set were either all at the same place in their mathematical career, or all different (undergrad, grad/post-bac, or faculty). A set was worth 1 point, and a superset was worth 5 points. This was a really good ice breaker between the participants, and encouraged the undergraduates to interact and talk to a bunch of different people.

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The first plenary talk was given by Erica Graham who is an Assistant Professor at Bryn Mawr College. She attended Bryn Mawr for her undergraduate degree, and then made her way back there as a professor. This was especially inspiring for me because I really appreciated the experience I had when I attended Bryn Mawr, and I would love to teach at a similar institution one day. Pure admiration from that viewpoint aside, Erica gave an amazing talk about new insights in modeling the ovulatory system. It’s always interesting to see how mathematics can have real world applications, and especially exciting when those applications pertain specifically to women. Despite the fact that many of the attendees had gotten up rather early to travel to the conference, you could tell that the audience was focused and engaged throughout the talk, which is indicative of what a great speaker Erica was.

The second plenary talk was given by Allison Henrich who is a Professor at Seattle University. Allison gave an amazing talk about interesting things you can do with rope, and how it relates to knot theory. It turns out that she was the undergraduate advisor to one of the current graduate students at Wesleyan University. After hearing Allison talk, I can see where he got his love of knot theory from, and why he loves the subject so much. Despite the fact that it was 4pm, and the last talk of the day, people were engaged in the talk, and excited to learn rope tricks afterwards.

Finally, one of the highlights that is hard to find at other conferences is that Smith has an amazing botanical garden. I did not get a chance to go this year because I was on the Graduate Student Panel, so the pictures are from last year (I normally sneak away during the panel). I somehow neglected to take any pictures of the succulents, but that might be because they’re my favorite and so I was too distracted to take photos. If you are ever passing by Smith, and the garden is open, you should definitely go!

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