Algebraic Combinatorixx (11w5025)

Arriving in Banff, Alberta Sunday, May 22 and departing Friday May 27, 2011


Georgia Benkart (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

(University of British Columbia)

(University of California, Davis)


1. Objectives and Background

Algebraic combinatorics is a broad area of research with substantial connections to representation theory, mathematical physics, algebraic geometry, number theory, knots and links, mathematical biology, statistical mechanics, symmetric functions, and invariant theory. The goal of this five-day workshop is to increase and strengthen the participation of women in algebraic combinatorics and related fields of research.

It is anticipated that half of the participants will be early career (pre-tenure or recently tenured) women faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, or graduate students working in combinatorics. The workshop will pair senior and junior researchers and have a major mentoring component. There will be survey lectures on the latest research developments given by more-established researchers and shorter talks by junior faculty members introducing their own work to the group. We expect that roughly half the time (afternoons and evenings) will be spent working in smaller groups organized by research interests, where actual research problems will be discussed. Some of these problems and topics will be proposed ahead of time along with relevant references so that participants can arrive prepared for discussions on these subjects. The conference will conclude with reports from these groups on the problem sessions. This approach fosters collaboration and introduces researchers to a broad range of ideas, techniques, and experiences.

We have been inspired to propose this workshop after the highly successful "Connections for Women Workshop on Combinatorial Representation Theory and Representations of Finite Groups and Related Topics" at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in January 2008 and the "WIN (Women in Numbers) Workshop" at BIRS in November 2008. Both programs highlighted accomplishments of women researchers while introducing younger participants to role models, potential mentors and collaborators, and important problems in the field. We expect the momentum generated by "Algebraic Combinatorixx" to have long-lasting effects far beyond the 5-day meeting. WIN activities have continued since the time of their 2008 BIRS meeting and include a conference proceedings, special sessions at national and sectional AMS meetings, and continued collaboration. WIN participants are organizing three separate special sessions at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco in January 2010. Although many women are involved in organizing and speaking in those special sessions, the majority of the speakers are male. This illustrates one of the long-term benefits of the WIN workshop and a potential benefit of the proposed workshop increased activity, visibility, and connectivity of researchers within the broader mathematical community.

We feel that BIRS is the perfect setting for the proposed combinatorics workshop, as it facilitates much mathematical communication, interaction, and networking in the seminar rooms, on the hiking trails, and at mealtime.

2. Potential Participants

The enthusiasm for the proposed workshop has far exceeded all expectations. Within 24 hours of sending out a description of the proposed workshop to gauge interest, we had received positive responses from over half of the 30 women contacted, and within less than a week's time, we had heard from virtually all of the 28 respondees below who agreed to be listed as potential attendees. The junior level mathematicians were excited about the prospect of participating and expressed the opinion that the workshop would be of great benefit to their careers. Some of the senior women offered to prepare reading lists and to help apply for grants. We will reserve the remaining places for graduate students and early career mathematicians and will apply for funding to support their travel and the travel expenses of those without grant money.

3. Conclusions and Benefits

The long-term benefits of this workshop are expected to be an increase in the participation of women in research activities related to algebraic combinatorics and related fields, a research network of potential collaborators, and visibility and connectivity for younger researchers especially those at smaller colleges or isolated in departments not having a strong research presence in combinatorics. We expect to maintain a website so that communication and collaboration can continue far beyond the five days at BIRS.

4. Format

Arrival evening 8-9:30:

2-3 minute introductory presentations from junior participants' social gathering


Lectures by Senior Mathematicians:
Lectures by Junior Mathematicians

Lunch Break: 12-2

Research Sessions and Discussions:

7-8:30 (research sessions three evenings and panel discussions two evenings' topics for discussion may include applying and interviewing for jobs, obtaining funding, the tenure process, fulfilling career responsibilities, research, teaching, advising, service balancing career and family responsibilities, parental leave,
childcare, dual career couples)