2021 Simons Society of Fellows Alumni Symposium

Date & Time


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

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Wed.: 8:30AM-8:30PM

Registration Closed

Invitation Only

Participation is by invitation only. All participants must register.


  • Agendaplus--large

    Wednesday, October 6

    9:30 AMJAIRO DIAZ | Multipotential Colloids
    10:30 AMBREAK
    11:00 AMYI SUN | Maximum likelihood for high-noise group orbit estimation and single-particle cryo-electron microscopy
    12:00 PMLUNCH
    1:00 PM KATE BONNEN | Seeing in Motion
    2:00 PMBREAK
    2:30 PMKEITH HAWKINS | Galactic Archaeology : Uncovering the Story of Our Home with Stellar Fossils
    3:30 PMBREAK
    4:00 PMSHANA CARO | The evolution of (dis)honesty and parental care(lessness)
    5:30 PMDINNER
  • Abstractsplus--large

    Keith Hawkins
    University of Texas at Austin

    Galactic Archaeology: Uncovering the Story of Our Home with Stellar Fossils

    What are the processes that govern the formation, evolution and assembly of galaxies across cosmic time? This question is among the most fundamental in modern astronomy, yet the answer still eludes us to this day. The Milky Way and its local group is the optimal laboratory for answering the questions of galaxy formation because it is one of the only systems to date where we can obtain detailed and precise data on the positions, motions and chemical composition for billions of individual stars. This is the holy grail of galactic archaeology. Recent large-scale spectroscopic surveys have enabled a detailed observations of the Milky Way. In this talk, Hawkins will discuss he current work in galactic archaeology and how data from these industrial surveys in stellar astronomy have been used to dissect the structure of our galaxy. He will also explore the future of galactic archaeology through chemical cartography.

    Jairo A. Díaz
    Rochester Institute of Technology

    Multipotential Colloids

    Millions of microscale ‘building blocks’ can self-assemble into much larger structures capable of creating rich emerging properties (e.g., cells forming tissues, particles forming crystals). However, decorating the surface and controlling the shape of a simple microscale block remain challenging, requiring nanoscale precision to efficiently encode self-assembly instructions. The complexity and cost of such tasks increase when extended to millions of building blocks.

    Díaz will present a novel tool where short DNA strands are used to both design shape and program binding information for colloids in bulk. The molecular precision of DNA design opens a window for rapid nanoscopic decoration, where deformations and symmetries can be programmed with ‘molecular’ resolution. Patch symmetries and DNA sequence are sorted in the liquid phase, while controlled transition to the solid phase freezes in the DNA designs for further assembly. This method enables the production of monodisperse DNA-coated faceted particles in the order of minutes.

    The novel multi-DNA patchy particles hold promise to rapidly access metastable regions in phase diagrams, offering unique opportunities to extend the number of realizable self-assembled structures.

    Kate Bonnen
    New York University

    Seeing in Motion

    Humans spend much of their lives in motion, acting in the world. Thus, our visual systems must support visual perception during self-motion and visual perception for self-motion. Advances in mobile-eye-movement and body-motion tracking have enabled recordings of how we move our eyes and bodies during self-motion in natural environments. Furthermore, such recordings give us unprecedented access to the patterns of light that actually fall on our retinae during self-motion. In this talk, Bonnen will use these data to 1) describe how humans coordinate their eye movements and body motion to support stable gait patterns in difficult terrain, and 2) examine the natural statistics of retinal motion and present a set of predictions that these statistics make for the differences in retinal-motion processing across the visual field.

    Yi Sun
    Harvard University

    Maximum likelihood for high-noise group orbit estimation and single-particle cryo-electron microscopy

    This talk will focus on the problem of recovering an unknown signal from noisy observations subject to random and unknown rotations, a model motivated by applications to single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). After describing several historical approaches to this problem, Yi will present recent results on the non-convex optimization landscape of maximum likelihood estimation, the most commonly used method for this problem. In particular, these results show that the optimization properties of the landscape in the high-noise regime are determined by the algebraic structure of the rotation group.

    This is talk is based on joint works with Zhou Fan, Roy Lederman, Tianhao Wang, Yihong Wu and Sheng Xu.

  • Participation & Fundingplus--large

    Participation in the meeting falls into the following three categories. An individual’s participation category is communicated via their letter of invitation.

    Group A – Speakers and Out-of-Town Participants
    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. Economy-class airfare will be booked for all flights.

    Group B – Local Participants
    Individuals in Group B will not receive financial support, but are encouraged to enjoy all conference-hosted meals.

    Group C – Remote Participants
    Individuals in Group C will participate in the meeting remotely. Please register at the link above and a remote participation link will be sent to you approximately two weeks prior to the meeting.

  • Travel & Hotelplus--large

    Air and Train
    The foundation will arrange and pay for all air and train travel to the conference for those in Group A. Please provide your travel specifications by clicking the registration link above. If you are unsure of your group, please refer to your invitation sent via email.

    Personal Car
    For participants in Group A driving to Manhattan, The James NoMad 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.

    Participants in Group A who require accommodations are hosted by the foundation for a maximum of two nights at The James NoMad Hotel. Any additional nights are at the attendee’s own expense. To arrange accommodations, please register at the link above.

    The James NoMad Hotel
    22 E 29th St
    New York, NY 10016
    (between 28th and 29th Streets)

    For driving directions to The James NoMad, please click here.

  • COVID-19 Policyplus--large

    ALL in-person meeting attendees must be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus with a World Health Organization approved vaccine, be beyond the 14-day inoculation period of their final dose, and provide proof of vaccination upon arrival to the conference. Acceptable vaccines can be found at the bottom of this page on WHO’s site.

  • Reimbursementplus--large

    Individuals in Group A will be reimbursed for meals not hosted by the Simons Foundation as well as local expenses, including ground transportation. Additional information in this regard will be emailed on the final day of the meeting.

  • Contactsplus--large

    Travel & Hotel Assistance
    Ovation Travel Team

    Meeting Questions & Assistance
    Melanie Shiree
    Event Coordinator, MPS, Simons Foundation
    (646) 751-1262

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