2019 MPS Annual Meeting

Date & Time


Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium
160 5th Ave
New York, NY 10010 United States

View Map

Thurs: 8:30AM–5:30PM
Fri: 8:30AM – 2:00PM

Registration Closed
Invitation Only

Participation is by invitation only. All participants must register.

The Mathematics and Physical Sciences Annual Meeting will gather together Simons Investigators, Simons Fellows, Simons Society of Fellows and Math + X Chairs and Investigators to exchange ideas through lectures and informal discussions in a scientifically stimulating environment.

  • Agendaplus--large

    Thursday, October 17

    8:30 AMCheck-in & Breakfast
    9:30 AMYanbei Chen | Gravitational Wave Science: from Black Hole Physics to Macroscopic Quantum Mechanics
    10:30 AMBreak
    11:00 AMAmit Singer | Mathematics of Cryo-Electron Microscopy
    12:00 PMLunch
    1:30 PMNigel Cooper | Topology and Dynamics in Quantum Matter
    2:30 PMBreak
    3:00 PMMichael Wolf | Limits of Geometric Structures on Surfaces
    4:00 PMBreak
    4:30 PMRachel Rosen | Black Holes for Massive Gravitons
    6:00 PMCocktails and Dinner @ Union Park

    Friday, October 18

    8:30 AMCheck-in and Breakfast
    9:30 AMLucy Colwell | Using Evolutionary Sequence Variation to Build Predictive Models of Protein Structure and Function
    10:30 AMBreak
    11:00 AMScott Aaronson | Gentle Measurement of Quantum States and Differential Privacy
    12:00 PMLunch
    1:00 PMMichael Brenner | Machine Learning for PDEs
    2:00 PMMeeting Concludes
  • Abstractsplus--large

    Scott Aaronson
    University of Texas at Austin

    Gentle Measurement of Quantum States and Differential Privacy

    Aaronson will discuss a recent connection between two seemingly unrelated problems: how to measure a collection of quantum states without damaging them too much (‘gentle measurement’) and how to provide statistical data without leaking too much about individuals (‘differential privacy,’ an area of classical CS). This connection leads to, among other things, a new protocol for ‘shadow tomography’ of quantum states (that is, answering a large number of questions about a quantum state given few copies of it).

    Scott Aaronson has established fundamental theorems in quantum computational complexity and inspired new research directions at the interface of theoretical computer science and the study of physical systems.


    Michael Brenner
    Harvard University

    Machine Learning for PDE’s

    Brenner will discuss several ways in which machine learning can be used for solving and understanding the solutions of nonlinear partial differential equations.

    Michael Brenner is the Michael T. Cronin Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. His research uses mathematics to examine a wide variety of problems in science and engineering, ranging from understanding the shapes of whale flippers, bird beaks and fungal spores, to answering ordinary questions about daily life, such as why a droplet of fluid splashes when it collides with a solid surface.


    Yanbei Chen
    California Institute of Technology

    Gravitational Wave Science: From Black Hole Physics to Macroscopic Quantum Mechanics

    Since the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) started operation in September 2015, gravitational waves from more than 12 pairs merging binary black holes have been observed. In August 2017, the neutron-star binary merger GW170817 was observed by both gravitational-wave and electromagnetic telescopes. Since April 2019, compact binaries are being detected at a rate of around once per week. From these initial events, we have tested basic properties of gravitational waves and black holes and have made the connection between neutron star mergers and gamma-ray bursts. Next, we will not only gather more population statics and make better measurements, but will also be testing more subtle predictions of general relativity, detecting events from the more distant/earlier universe, and search for deviations from general relativity and exotic phenomena. These ambitious goals will be achieved by new generations of ground-base detectors, as well as space-based detectors. Gravitational-wave detectors are at the frontier of precision measurement physics. Macroscopic test masses in Advanced LIGO are already being monitored continuously at a level of only several times the Heisenberg Uncertainty. Improving detector sensitivity requires considering measurement-induced back action, as well as the quantum coherence between the test masses and the measuring devices. This provides us with the opportunity to study the quantum mechanical behaviors of macroscopic objects.

    Yanbei Chen made major contributions to understanding the noise of laser-interferometer gravitational-wave detectors that arise from quantum fluctuations of light and matter. He proposed conceptual interferometer designs that can achieve better sensitivity, also formulating a vision for experimentally testing quantum mechanics and quantum measurement theory on macroscopic objects. Chen made important contributions to gravitational-wave data-analysis strategies and works on using gravitational-wave observations to test the predictions of general relativity in strong gravity and to study the structures of black holes.


    Nigel Cooper
    University of Cambridge

    Topology and Dynamics in Quantum Matter

    Quantum many-body systems arise in a wide range of physical settings from quark-gluon plasmas to electrons in semiconductor devices. They are known to give rise to very rich and complex forms of collective behavior, such as superconductivity and the quantum Hall effect. Much progress has been made in understanding equilibrium phases of quantum matter, through concepts of symmetry breaking and, more recently, via topological classifications. However, recent developments of experimental platforms are allowing the far-from-equilibrium dynamics of quantum many-body systems to be explored in detail. Cooper will describe some of the new theoretical issues that arise, focusing on the constraints imposed by topology on dynamical evolution.


    Lucy Colwell
    University of Cambridge

    Using Evolutionary Sequence Variation to Build Predictive Models of Protein Structure and Function

    The evolutionary trajectory of a protein through sequence space is constrained by its function. A central challenge across the biological sciences is to predict the functional properties of a protein from its sequence, and thus (i) discover new proteins with specific required functionality and (ii) better understand the functional effect of changes within protein coding genes. The explosive growth in the number of available protein sequences raises the possibility of using the natural variation present in homologous protein sequences to infer these constraints and thus identify residues that control different protein phenotypes. Because in many cases phenotypic changes are controlled by more than one amino acid, the mutations that separate one phenotype from another may not be independent, requiring us to build models that take into account the correlation structure of the data. Models that have this feature are capable of (i) inference of residue pair interactions accurate enough to predict all atom 3-D structural models and predictions of (ii) binding interactions between different proteins and (iii) accurate annotation of sequence domains with as low as 20 percent identity to the training set.

    Lucy Colwell has demonstrated that the 3-D structure of proteins can be determined from large sequence alignments. Her current research develops methods for relating phenotype to genotype, using large data sets from high throughput biological experiments, focusing mainly on proteins, small molecules and nucleic acids.


    Amit Singer
    Princeton University

    Mathematics of Cryo-Electron Microscopy

    Single particle cryo-EM is becoming an increasingly popular technique for determining 3-D molecular structures at high resolution. We will discuss the mathematical principles for reconstruction using cryo-EM and then focus on computational challenges, in particular, reconstruction of small molecules and heterogeneity analysis.

    Amit Singer is one of the leaders in the mathematical analysis of noisy data provided by cryo-EM.


    Rachel Rosen
    Columbia University

    Black Holes for Massive Gravitons

    What would happen to a black hole if the graviton had a mass? In this talk, Rosen will review the status of black hole solutions for theories in which the gravitational force is mediated by a massive spin-2 particle. She will present the arguments that such black holes must necessarily be time dependent and will discuss the implications for black hole mechanics and for observations.

    Rachel A. Rosen’s research focuses on quantum field theory and its applications to particle physics, gravitational physics and condensed matter systems. She is best known for her contributions to massive gravity, a theory in which the graviton — the spin-2 particle that transmits the gravitational force — has a mass. She has also helped to develop new techniques for studying various states of matter, from ordinary fluids to an exotic quantum liquid that could exist in the cores of certain very dense stars.


    Michael Wolf
    Rice University

    Limits of Geometric Structures on Surfaces

    The study of surfaces lies at the crossroads of many subjects, and this reflects in there being a variety of geometries — hyperbolic, complex projective and affine spherical, among others — that a surface can admit. We discuss how these moduli spaces of geometric structures may by parametrized by holomorphic objects associated to variational problems and then focus on describing the singular objects that emerge when we allow the geometric surfaces to degenerate. Along the way, we meet a number of constructions central to this subject.

    Wolf’s research focuses on deformations of geometric structures on surfaces, typically with applications to and from conformal optimization problems. The work often blends complex analytic quantities with synthetic constructions that reflect the qualitative features of the solutions to the extremal problems. A recent principal interest is in higher rank Teichmuller theory, which applies gauge theory to the study of representations of surface groups in Lie groups. He has past contributions to complex projective geometry as well as to classical minimal surface theory, where he and collaborators found the first embedded complete minimal surface in space with infinite total curvature but finite topology since the eighteenth-century helicoid.

  • Travelplus--large

    The foundation will arrange and pay for all air and train travel to the Annual Meeting. Please provide your travel specifications by clicking the registration link above.

  • Ground Transportationplus--large


    Those arriving on Wednesday, October 16th via an NY area airport or train station are asked to take a taxi or public transportation to the W Union Square located in Manhattan. Please retain your cab receipt for reimbursement.

    Those arriving on Thursday, October 17th will be contacted to arrange transportation directly to the Simons Foundation.


    The foundation will arrange transportation for all participants departing on Friday, October 18th and Saturday, October 19th back to their departing airport or train station.

    Departure notices will be delivered on Thursday evening. Included in the notice will be departure times to New York area airports and train stations. Cecilia Sas will be available via email or phone to assist with train and airline issues.

    Personal Car

    For participants driving to Manhattan, the W Union Square offers valet parking, the fees of which are covered by the foundation. Please note that there are no in-and-out privileges when using the hotel’s garage, therefore it is encouraged that participants walk or take public transportation to the Simons Foundation.


    The Simons Foundation will reimburse travel by subway, bus or taxi. Please submit receipts with your expense report following the meeting.
  • Hotelplus--large

    All attendees requiring accommodations are hosted by the foundation for a maximum of three nights at the W Union Square.

    W New York – Union Square
    201 Park Ave S, New York, NY 10003
    (212) 253-9119

    Any additional nights are at the attendee’s own expense.

    To arrange accommodations, please register at the link above.

    For driving directions to the W Union Square, please click here.

  • Mealsplus--large

    The Simons Foundation will provide the following meals:

    • Thursday breakfast, lunch and dinner
    • Friday breakfast and lunch

    Guests will not be reimbursed for meals purchased at these times.

    All other meals outside those listed above are reimbursable per the foundation’s expense reimbursement policy.

  • Contactsplus--large

    Travel and Hotel Assistance
    Cecilia Sas, Protravel International

    Registration and General Meeting Assistance
    Meghan Fazzi
    Senior Executive Assistant, Simons Foundation
    (212) 524-6080

    Ground Transportation
    Emily Klein
    Program Associate, Simons Foundation
    (646) 751-1262

  • Travel & Expense Policyplus--large

    Expense reimbursement will be handled online via our reimbursement platform hosted by Concur. Receipts are required for any expense over $50 USD. Additional information regarding the foundation’s online reimbursement process will be sent to all participants on Friday, October 18th.

Subscribe to MPS announcements and other foundation updates