UK Nonlinear News Review

6th International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ICIAM)

Jon Ward

After a particularly wet start to the summer in the UK, it was with welcome relief that I left for the 6th International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ICIAM) 2007 in Zürich, Switzerland, where the outlook was hot and sunny. In addition to the agreeable climate and continental lifestyle, on offer was a conference of gargantuan proportions: with well over 3000 participants, more than 2900 lectures and 27 invited speakers the program looked overwhelming.

Despite its record size the organisation was superb; on arrival, staff were on hand at the airport and the train station to answer questions and distribute public transport passes. The assistant at the airport however was somewhat reluctant to hand over my travel pass owing to there being three J. Wards at the conference, one of which she had just dealt with. It didn't help that the Jonathan written on my passport didn't match up with the Jon on her list and being below the average age of the other participants I think she suspected that I was just trying to scam a free train ticket!

In addition to stands placed off campus, numerous aides and maps had been positioned on site to guide you to your desired destination, and with the conference taking place in 11 different buildings up to a kilometre apart, they proved invaluable. The event was co-hosted by the UZH and the ETH and most of the talks were located in their respective main buildings (fortunately adjacent to each other), and the large venues and live broadcasts meant that you could easily access your seminar of choice.

The opening ceremony saw several of the ICIAM prizes being awarded and an impressive demonstration of traditional flag throwing and Alphorn playing. This was followed later in the day by the reception where large quantities of drinks were free for the taking - if you could fight your way to the table where they were being served! With so many people in attendance, there was more luck involved in bumping into colleagues but there were also plenty of new faces for everyone to meet.

The plenary talks on offer came from a wide range of areas in applied mathematics including biological and chemical applications, economics, numerics and computation, fluid and solid mechanics and recent advances in ODEs and PDEs. There were up to four plenary lectures in parallel, providing a lot of choice but also having the effect that some of the talks were too specific and therefore less accessible to the wider audience. The highlights included lectures by Walter Gautschi on the great Leonhard Euler (particularly relevant since 2007 marks the 300th birthday of Euler's birth in nearby Basel) and Ivar Ekeland on the development of optimization.

The minisymposia, embedded meetings and contributed talks were held in parallel between the plenaries, giving a selection of sometimes more than sixty talks to choose from. The minisymposia were generally composed of two two-hour sessions and worked very well, bringing together a spectrum of people with overlapping expertise which led to some very fruitful discussions and debates. There were also over 100 posters to eye during the refreshment breaks between seminars.

The UZH and ETH are perched above the old district of Zürich, a delightful maze of cobbled streets lined with a vast array of restaurants, bars and shops that cater for all tastes. These streets naturally lead one to the river Limmat and Lake Zürich, where the locals enjoy their leisure time playing on the banks and swimming or sailing in the refreshing clear waters.

In summary, although ICIAM 07 looked like it might be just too big, its organisation was excellent and adopting the relaxed local attitude resulted in a very successful and enjoyable conference.