Heidelberg Laureate Forum Fellows

Fellows from the department were among the participants of the prestigious conference where laureates of mathematics and computer science meet the next generation of young researchers.

This year’s event, although virtual, still presented itself as an opportunity to learn new things and network for the fellows – alum Oded Stein (PhD ’20) and PhD students Ireti Akinola and Ana-Andreea Stoica. Below they share what they enjoyed most and how they look forward to attending the event in person after the pandemic.


Ireti Akinola

I was excited to learn that Donald Knuth and Yoshua Bengio were among the Turing laureates that will be participating at this year’s conference. It was interesting to hear them talk about their careers. While they shared some thoughts on their specific paths, they were quick to point out that the world is a lot different now compared to when they started. What was evident with their talks was that they tried to work on problems that they found interesting.

In other sessions, speakers highly recommended multi-disciplinary collaborations to help advance impactful modern research. I also learned a bit more about health care and disease management, which is the main theme of the event. This was quite timely as the pandemic has made this time a defining moment in healthcare.

Science communication came up a lot throughout the course of the forum. As young researchers, speakers recommended writing as much as you can – writing ideas down, both in prose and equations, helps with clarity.


Ana-Andreaa Stoica

The Heidelberg forum was a good mix of learning from very accomplished academics and meeting other students. With all the difficulties that an online event presents, I appreciated that the organizers took many questions and feedback from participants, and the talks felt more like a lively discussion.

I liked hearing from prominent researchers like Karen Uhlenbeck and Don Knuth not only about their work, but also about their research process, interests, and a bit about their life story of how they got engaged with their field. Other than that, the forum presented several interesting discussions about current topics, such as using big data in healthcare, or the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, which connected some of the more theoretical foundations to application domains and ethical considerations.

The forum had a lively online platform that simulated real-life interaction and facilitated a poster session where people could mingle and learn from each other — which I think is really needed for any online event!

I learned about the forum from my advisor, Augustin Chaintreau, and was excited to see in the program many amazing researchers on fields related to mine. While I enjoyed the forum this year, I’m sure the in-person experience will be very different. I’m looking forward to participating (hopefully!) in person next year. 


Oded Stein

I really enjoyed attending the virtual forum. It was quite an experience to hear talks by some of the most esteemed people in mathematics and computer science. I was very inspired by hearing their stories and it was great that they answered many audience questions during the sessions.

There was also a virtual meeting room for a poster session, which provided social interactions between the attendees which I appreciated since we were all meeting virtually. 

One specific thing I learned from the lab tours is that doing astronomy is very labor-intensive! The researchers hike far away to get to the telescopes, live in cramped living conditions to operate the machinery, and there is also the constant danger from forest fires.

I think it was a good experience, but it would have been even better if it was in-person. I’m looking forward to attending the event when the public health situation makes an in-person meeting possible.