2023 MPS Annual Meeting

Date & Time

The 2023 Mathematics and Physical Sciences Annual Meeting will bring together grantees and scientific partners to exchange ideas through lectures and discussions in a scientifically stimulating environment.

The MPS Annual Meeting is by invitation only and participants are encouraged to attend in person.

  • Agendaplus--large

    Thursday, October 12

    8:30 AMCheck-In & Breakfast
    9:30 AMMelody Chan | Combinatorial Methods in the Study of Moduli Spaces
    10:30 AMBreak
    11:00 AMRachel Mandelbaum | Transforming Weak Gravitational Lensing Analysis and Our View of the Dark Universe
    12:00 PMLunch
    1:30 PMTony Pantev | New Fascinating Facets of Mirror Symmetry
    2:30 PMBreak
    3:00 PMOded Regev | Machine Learning for Scientific Discovery: Deciphering RNA Processing Logic
    4:00 PMBreak
    4:30 PMAashish Clerk | Adventures in Driven-Dissipative Quantum Dynamics
    5:30 PMScientific Program Concludes
    5:40 PMBus transfer to MPS Annual Meeting Dinner, New York Historical Society
    6:00 PMCocktails | Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, 4th fl.
    7:00 PMDinner | Dexter Hall, 2nd fl.
    9:30 PMBus transfer to New York Chelsea Hotel

    Friday, October 13

    8:30 AMCheck-In & Breakfast
    9:30 AMOlga Dudko | Universality vs. Specificity in Synaptic Transmission
    10:30 AMBreak
    11:00 AMAlexei Borodin | Geometry of Dimer Models
    12:00 PMLunch
    1:00 PMJesse Thaler | The Hidden Geometry of Particle Collisions
    2:00 PMMeeting Concludes
  • Abstractsplus--large

    Alexei Borodin
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Geometry of Dimer Models

    Random dimer coverings of large planar graphs are known to exhibit unusual and visually apparent asymptotic phenomena that include formation of frozen regions and various phases in the unfrozen ones. For a specific family of subgraphs of the (periodically weighted) square lattice known as the Aztec diamonds, the asymptotic behavior of dimers admits a precise description in terms of geometry of underlying Riemann surfaces. The goal of the talk is to explain how the surface structure manifests itself through the statistics of dimers. Based on joint works with T. Berggren and M. Duits.

    Alexei Borodin is a professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He studies problems on the interface of representation theory and probability that link to combinatorics, random matrix theory and integrable systems. His most recent work carries over the ideas and techniques of the theory of symmetric functions to solvable lattice models of statistical physics.

    Melody Chan
    Brown University

    Combinatorial Methods in the Study of Moduli Spaces

    Melody Chan will present an overview of some combinatorial methods used to study the geometry of moduli spaces: spaces which parametrize geometric objects. These spaces play a central role in the field of algebraic geometry, the study of spaces that are patched together from zero sets of systems of polynomial equations.

    Melody Chan is an American mathematician working in combinatorial algebraic geometry. She was an undergraduate at Yale and, after spending time at Cambridge and Princeton, received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard until 2015, and since then has been at Brown University, where she is currently an associate professor of mathematics. She received a 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship, an NSF CAREER grant and the 2020 AWM-Microsoft Research Prize in Algebra. In 2022, she was elected as a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

    Aashish Clerk
    University of Chicago

    Adventures in Driven-Dissipative Quantum Dynamics

    When trying to coax interesting quantum behavior out of a system, we normally view dissipation and noise as nuisances whose effects should be minimized as much as possible. This is an overly pessimistic view: the reality is that these sources of non-unitary dynamics can lead to a rich variety of physical phenomena, effects that in many cases can be harnessed as a resource for quantum technologies. In this talk, Clerk will provide a gentle introduction to his group’s work in this area, touching on topics ranging from how to usefully define a notion of quantum detailed balance and time-reversal symmetry in open quantum systems, to methods for engineering dissipation to stabilize entangled states and realize one-way (non-reciprocal) interactions.

    Clerk received a B.Sc. in mathematics and physics from the University of Toronto, followed by a Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University and postdoctoral work at Yale University. He was a professor of physics and Canada Research Chair at McGill University from 2004 to 2017 and has been a professor at the University of Chicago since 2017. His research is at the intersection of condensed matter, quantum optics and quantum information theory. His work is broadly interested in driven-dissipative quantum phenomena and is motivated both by fundamental questions as well as potential applications to quantum technologies. Clerk is well known for his works on quantum optomechanical systems, on quantum amplification and measurement, and on dissipation engineering to realize unidirectional interactions and entanglement. Clerk’s current work spans topics ranging from quantum transduction and quantum control to the study of new kinds of driven-dissipative bosonic topological phases and non-Hermitian quantum phenomena. His work has been recognized by a Sloan Fellowship, the E. W. R. Steacie Award of Canada’s National Science and Engineering Research Council, the Rutherford Medal of the Royal Society of Canada and a Simons Investigator Fellowship in Theoretical Physics.

    Olga Dudko
    University of California at San Diego

    Universality vs. Specificity in Synaptic Transmission

    Our ability to feel, think or act is determined by the capacity of our neurons to communicate rapidly and precisely. Even though we have a theory that describes the propagation of signals along a single neuron (the Hodgkin–Huxley work leading to ion channels), there was no comparably compelling theory for the transmission of signals across the synapses between neurons, despite a rich body of quantitative data. Dudko will discuss how we might be able to go from the molecular constituents of synapses all the way to the phenomenology of synaptic transmission and further to memory and learning in one coherent theory. While rates of neurotransmitter release in different synapses span nearly ten orders of magnitude, the dependence of these rates on the underlying control signal is found to obey a simple, universal scaling law. The physical principles embodied in this scaling connect to processes across the traditional subfields of biology — from neuronal communication to viral infection, fertilization of the egg and the growth of our muscles. These commonalities suggest the possibility of a unifying theory.

    Olga Dudko is a professor in the Department of Physics at the University of California, San Diego. She received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics at the Institute for Low Temperature Physics and Engineering in Kharkiv, Ukraine, where she worked in condensed matter physics. Following postdoctoral appointments at Tel Aviv University and at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, she joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego in 2007. Dudko is a recipient of an NSF CAREER Award, a fellow of the American Physical Society and a Simons Investigator. Dudko’s research is driven by the notion that deep, physics-based conceptual approaches can encompass the complexity of living systems. The theory of single-molecule force spectroscopy developed by Dudko and collaborators has been widely used for interpreting the experiments on conformational transitions in biological macromolecules. Recent areas of research include the spatiotemporal organization of chromosomes in the cell, virus-host cell interactions and neuronal communication. Dudko’s research strives for a unifying understanding of disparate biological processes through the analytically tractable theories that reveal unifying principles and are predictive in experiments.

    Rachel Mandelbaum
    Carnegie Mellon University

    Transforming Weak Gravitational Lensing Analysis and Our View of the Dark Universe

    Current and future sky surveys are a key part of understanding the current cosmological paradigm, in which much of the energy density of the universe is not normal visible matter and the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating. Weak gravitational lensing, the deflection of light from distant galaxies by mass in more nearby galaxies, is one of the most sensitive probes of the growth of structure in the universe and is therefore a key part of the cosmological community’s program for understanding the nature of cosmic acceleration and dark energy. It is also a powerful probe of the connection between the visible components of galaxies and galaxy clusters and the underlying dark matter. The past few years have seen advances in weak lensing measurements with ongoing surveys and the development of novel methods that meet the challenges of even larger upcoming sky surveys. In this talk, Rachel Mandelbaum will describe these innovations in the field, recent exciting results using those methods and future capabilities for unlocking the scientific discovery potential of upcoming surveys such as the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST).

    Rachel Mandelbaum is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). She earned her Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University and was previously an associate research scholar and a visiting associate research scholar for Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton and a Hubble Fellow for astrophysics at the Institute for Advanced Study. Her research interests are predominantly in the areas of observational cosmology and galaxy studies that reveal the nature of dark matter and dark energy and the connection between dark matter and galaxies. Her work includes the use of weak gravitational lensing and other analysis techniques, with projects that range from development of improved data analysis methods, to application of such methods to existing data. In recent years she has dedicated significant effort towards the development of open-source software packages for astronomical simulation and data analysis and towards the develop of novel analysis methods involving machine learning and statistical methods. Currently, Mandelbaum is involved in analysis of data from the Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) survey and is actively preparing for upcoming surveys including the Rubin Observatory LSST and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. Her work on LSST is carried out within the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration, for which she previously served as analysis coordinator and then spokesperson, and as current co-lead of the LINCC Frameworks initiative. She has received the AAS Annie Jump Cannon Prize, the Department of Energy Early Career Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship and a Simons Investigator Award, and she was the Falco-DeBenedetti Career Development Professor in Physics at CMU.

    Tony Pantev
    University of Pennsylvania

    New Fascinating Facets of Mirror Symmetry

    The homological mirror symmetry program bridges two seemingly unrelated geometric frameworks: symplectic topology and complex analytic geometry. A concentrated collaborative effort to establish the mirror correspondence has led not only to general proofs of the homological mirror symmetry conjecture but has also prompted deep conceptual advances within complex and symplectic geometry proper. In this talk, Pantev will describe some of the most prominent new tools that have emerged in the field and will survey unexpected ramifications and applications to topology, arithmetic geometry, representation theory, birational geometry, geometric analysis and analytic number theory.

    Pantev grew up in Bulgaria and completed his undergraduate studies at Sofia University. He moved to the United States for his graduate studies and received his Ph.D. in 1994 from the University of Pennsylvania. After a postdoc at MIT, Pantev became a member of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 1997, where he is currently a Class of 1939 Professor of Mathematics.

    Pantev’s research interests include algebraic and differential geometry, Hodge theory and mathematical physics, with a special focus on geometric dualities and quantization.

    Oded Regev
    New York University

    Machine Learning for Scientific Discovery: Deciphering RNA Processing Logic

    Recent advances in machine learning such as deep learning have led to powerful tools for modeling complex data with high predictive accuracy. However, the resulting models are typically black box, limiting their usefulness in scientific discovery. Here we show that an interpretable-by-design machine-learning model captures a fundamental cellular process known as RNA splicing. Our model provides a systematic understanding of RNA splicing logic, recapitulating, and extending on existing domain knowledge. It also allowed us to discover and experimentally validate novel splicing features. This study highlights how interpretable machine learning can advance scientific discovery. Based on joint work with Susan E. Liao and Mukund Sudarshan.

    Oded Regev is a Silver Professor in the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University. Prior to joining NYU, he was affiliated with Tel Aviv University and the École Normale Supérieure, Paris under the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Tel Aviv University in 2001 under the supervision of Yossi Azar. He is a recipient of the 2019 Simons Investigator award, the 2018 Gödel Prize, several best paper awards and was a speaker at the 2022 International Congress of Mathematicians. His research areas include the geometry of numbers, cryptography, quantum computation, machine learning and RNA biology.

    Jesse Thaler
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    The Hidden Geometry of Particle Collisions

    Since the 1960s, particle physicists have developed a variety of data analysis techniques for the goal of comparing experimental measurements to theoretical predictions. Despite their numerous successes, these techniques can seem esoteric and ad hoc, even to practitioners in the field. In this talk, Thaler explains how many particle physics analysis tools have a natural geometric interpretation in an emergent “space” of collider events induced by the Wasserstein metric. This in turn suggests new machine learning strategies to interpret point cloud data sets from collider physics and beyond.

    Jesse Thaler is a theoretical particle physicist who fuses techniques from quantum field theory and machine learning to address outstanding questions in fundamental physics. His current research is focused on maximizing the discovery potential of the Large Hadron Collider through new theoretical frameworks and novel data analysis techniques. Thaler joined the MIT Physics Department in 2010 and is currently a professor in the Center for Theoretical Physics. In 2020, he became the inaugural Director of the NSF Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Fundamental Interactions.

  • Participation & Fundingplus--large

    The foundation will arrange and pay for all air and train travel to the conference as well as hotel accommodations and reimbursement of local expenses.

    Optional Remote Participation
    If you prefer to participate in the meeting remotely, please select “I will attend remotely”, by clicking the above registration link. Please note that speakers are required to attend in person.

  • Travel & Hotelplus--large

    Air and Train

    All travel and hotel arrangements must be booked through the Simons Foundation’s preferred travel agency. Travel arrangements not booked through the preferred agency must be pre-approved by the Simons Foundation and a reimbursement quote must be obtained through the foundation’s travel agency. Travel specifications can be provided by clicking the registration link above.

    Personal Car

    Personal car trips over 250 miles each way require prior approval from the Simons Foundation via email.

    The Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel offers valet parking. Please note 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.

    Ground Transportation on Friday, October 13

    Ground transportation will be coordinated for individuals departing from the Simons Foundation to NY-area airports on Friday, October 13. Additional information in this regard will be communicated via email approximately two weeks prior to the meeting.

    Ground transportation on all other days should be coordinated directly and submitted for reimbursement at the conclusion of the meeting. With the exception of traveling to/from the airport, while in NYC individuals are encouraged to use public transportation and not use taxi, Uber or Lyft services.


    Participants who require accommodations are hosted by the foundation for a maximum of three nights at the Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel. Any additional nights are at the attendee’s own expense. To arrange accommodations, please register at the link above.

    Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel
    112 W 25th Street
    New York, NY 10010
    (between 26th and 7th Avenues)

    For driving directions to Renaissance New York Chelsea Hotel, please click here.

  • Attendance & Reimbursement Policiesplus--large


    In-person participants and speakers are expected to attend all meeting days. Partial participation is permitted so long as the individual fully attends the first day, which is typically Thursday for two-day meetings. Participants receiving hotel and travel support wishing to arrive on meeting days which conclude at 2:00 PM will be asked to attend remotely.

    COVID-19 Vaccination

    Individuals accessing Simons Foundation and Flatiron Institute buildings must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

    Entry & Building Access

    Upon arrival, guests will be required to show their photo ID to enter the Simons Foundation and Flatiron Institute buildings. After checking-in at the meeting reception desk, guests will be able to show their meeting name badge to re-enter the building. If you forget your name badge, you will need to provide your photo ID.

    The Simons Foundation and Flatiron Institute buildings are not considered “open campuses” and meeting participants will only have access to the spaces in which the meeting will take place. All other areas are off limits without prior approval.

    If you require a private space to conduct a phone call or remote meeting, please contact your meeting manager at least 48-hours ahead of time so that they may book a space for you within the foundation’s room reservation system.


    Meeting participants are required to give 24 hour advance notice of any guests meeting them at the Simons Foundation either before or after the meeting. Outside guests are discouraged from joining meeting activities, including meals.

    Ad hoc meeting participants who did not receive a meeting invitation directly from the Simons Foundation are discouraged.

    Children under the age of 18 are not permitted to attend meetings at the Simons Foundation. Furthermore, the Simons Foundation does not provide childcare facilities or support of any kind. Special accommodations will be made for nursing parents.


    In-person participants will be reimbursed for meals and local expenses including ground transportation. Expenses should be submitted through the foundation’s online expense reimbursement platform after the meeting’s conclusion.

    Expenses accrued as a result of meetings not directly related to the Simons Foundation-hosted meeting (a satellite collaboration meeting held at another institution, for example) will not be reimbursed by the Simons Foundation and should be paid by other sources.

    Below are key reimbursement takeaways; a full policy will be provided with the final logistics email circulated approximately two weeks prior to the meeting’s start.


    The daily meal limit is $125 and itemized receipts are required for expenses over $24 USD. The foundation DOES NOT provide a meal per diem and only reimburses actual meal expenses.

    • Meals taken on travel days are reimbursable.
    • Meals taken outside those provided by the foundation (breakfast, lunch, breaks and/or dinner) are not reimbursable.
    • If a meal was not provided on a meeting day, dinner for example, that expense is reimbursable.
    • Meals taken on days not associated with Simons Foundation-coordinated events are not reimbursable.
    • Minibar expenses are not reimbursable
    • Meal expenses for a non-foundation guest are not reimbursable.
    • Group meals consisting of fellow meeting participants paid by a single person will be reimbursed up to $65 per person per meal and the amount will count towards each individual’s $125 daily meal limit.
  • Contactsplus--large

    Registration and Travel Assistance
    Ovation Travel Group
    [email protected]
    (917) 408-8384 (24-Hours)

    Meeting Questions and Assistance
    Meghan Fazzi
    Manager, Events and Administration, MPS, Simons Foundation
    [email protected]
    (212) 524-6080

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