Sophie Huibert’s experience at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum

In September of 2019, Sophie Huiberts visited the Heidelberg Laureate Forum. In this blog she shares her experience and looks back on this

Publication date
5 Dec 2019

In the last week of September, I attended this year's Heidelberg Laureate Forum (HLF). HLF is a conference where 200 young researchers in mathematics and computer science spend a week interacting with the laureates of the Abel Prize, ACM A.M. Turing Award, ACM Prize in Computing, Fields Medal and Nevanlinna Prize.

The program consists of lectures by many of the attending laureates, as well as social activities and programs on the broader social context of science. In this blog I want to share my experiences with you, so that you can get an idea of what HLF is about and maybe become enthusiastic about the event yourself.

The scientific programme consisted of many amazing lectures by the laureates. I would definitely recommend checking out the recordings of the lectures by Tarjan, Hellman, Hopcroft, and Birkar. Especially Hellman's lecture on the ethical responsibilities of scientists generated a lot of inspiring discussion among the young researchers.

The wider societal context of science and scientists was often a topic of discussion and came up in the program as well. During the panel discussion of the opening ceremony, with the presidents of the ACM, IMU and DNVA, there was a question on the gender imbalance among laureates. Their answers were very enlightening. Later on there were excellent presentations and panel discussions on the gender balance  in our fields, the future of scientific publishing, and on climate change (part 1) and (part 2).

From the moment I arrived, it was clear that no effort or expense had been spared on this wonderful conference. Everyone was booked a nice hotel room within walking distance of the venue, and all meals were arranged for us. Mealtime was always a great time to meet new people, hang out with friends or talk to the laureates. Networking events can sometimes  feel stressful, but the open atmosphere at the HLF made this week as delightful as a week can be.

In contrast to many academic conferences I have attended so far, the attendees of the HLF really were from all over the planet, not just from wealthy  countries. The young researchers formed avery diverse crowd and this contributed to everyone's experience a lot.

Because the HLF is a networking conference, a lot of care had been taken for the social events. Every meal had sufficient vegan options (this has never happened to me before). We had a boat trip on the river on Wednesday and dinner in the local castle on Friday. My favorite event was on Tuesday when we ate dinner in a museum, with a view of a real Buran.

Many of the young researchers will have learned a lot in this week, and also gained a broader understanding of their position in science and scientists' position in society. I certainly did.

Application for HLF 2020 is now open for undergraduate students up to and including post-docs. Highly recommended!

Sophie Huiberts, PhD student at CWI's Networks & Optimization group