Inaugural gathering at OIST promotes collaboration in the field of asymptotics

Theoretical Sciences Visiting Program (TSVP) hosts first ‘thematic program’ bridging mathematics and theoretical physics.

Header TSVP Thematic program

The first thematic program by the Theoretical Sciences Visiting Program (TSVP), titled “Exact Asymptotics: From Fluid Dynamics to Quantum Geometry”, was hosted by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) from 1 August to 30 October. 

Asymptotic analysis is a method used to understand how systems behave as they approach extremes, like huge sizes, long time scales, or tiny quantum behavior. The idea behind it is to explain complicated systems by making corrections to simpler ones, which are better understood. 

Program activities included mini courses, seminars and colloquia, and a symposium on “Nonlinear differential equations and the Stokes phenomenon”. Dr. Samuel Crew (Ruhr University Bochum), Dr. Harini Desiraju (University of Sydney), Dr. Omar Kidwai (University of Birmingham), Dr. Gergő Nemes (Tokyo Metropolitan University), and Dr. Phil Trinh (University of Bath) served as ​scientific​ coordinators for the thematic program. 

Researchers who participate in ​​a thematic program can spend between 1 to 3 months based at OIST’s Visiting Program offices. The symposium from 4-15 September served as the core event, gathering scientists from around the world and across a variety of disciplines, with some participants arriving earlier or staying later to continue their research. 

TSVP’s inaugural thematic program included a 10-day symposium
TSVP’s inaugural thematic program included a 10-day symposium on “Nonlinear differential equations and the Stokes phenomenon”, gathering mathematicians and theoretical physicists from Japan and abroad.

Bright minds converge under one roof 

Approximately 40 researchers from diverse but interconnected research areas such as ​​​​quantum field theory, algebraic geometry, and fluid dynamics, gathered at TSVP to attend the first thematic program.  

The thematic programs are the result of a rigorous selection process where interested parties submit proposals outlining their intended research focus. The proposals should highlight cutting-edge topics in the theoretical sciences, where bringing together a concentrated group of experts could potentially lead to significant breakthroughs. 

“It's not just a program, it's a melting pot of ideas, diverse perspectives, and collaborative innovation,” Dr. Jonas Fischer, the TSVP academic coordinator, explained.  

Visiting Program offices create a comfortable environment for visitors
Visiting Program offices create a comfortable environment for visitors, equipped with ample chalkboards, world-famous Hagoromo chalk, beverages, and ocean views.

Dr. Harini Desiraju, event participant and coordinator, commented on the fuzzy disciplinary boundaries of the thematic program’s visiting researchers which promotes interdisciplinary collaboration: “For the participants in this specific program, it’s challenging to label someone strictly as a mathematician or a physicist. If you imagine it as a spectrum, some lean more towards mathematics, but most fall somewhere in between and the distinction becomes less important. We focus on how we can learn from each other’s expertise during our time here.”

Dr. Fischer is excited about the TSVP’s long-term goal of hosting six thematic programs per year. “This will allow us to cover a wider range of topics from all research fields represented at OIST. Regularly hosting these programs not only helps with idea exchange but also increases OIST’s visibility in the global scientific community.” 

Visitors spent time exploring beautiful Okinawa.
Visitors spent time exploring beautiful Okinawa.

Welcoming long-term visitors to ​​OIST 

Through the Visiting Program, long-term visitors ​​stay at OIST for anywhere between three months to a year, with the average duration being around six months. Before arriving at OIST, they typically identify a few research units they wish to collaborate with. Some may have a broader scope, while others may concentrate primarily on one unit.  

Once they arrive, researchers have the freedom to pursue their research interests. They can collaborate with their chosen units or carve out their own path. The key aspect of this program is that it provides them with the opportunity to focus solely on research, creating a supportive environment for scientific exploration and discovery. 

Applications for the program have steadily risen, with 60 applications submitted in 2021 and 130 in the latest 2023 open call for visiting scholars. The introduction of the thematic programs has boosted the total visitor count from 20 in the inaugural year of the TSVP to nearly 100 in its second year. 

For more information on the TSVP and upcoming thematic programs in 2024 please see here and listen to this podcast episode: DJ Nick Luscombe, OIST Podcaster in Residence, explores the TSVP

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