06 Jan 2020

Travel Report from Valeria Barra

First and foremost, I would like to thank the European Women in Mathematics travel grant’s committee for supporting my application and allowing me to attend the first Women in Mathematics Meeting (WM2) in Portugal, held at the Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, from the 22nd to the 24th of July, 2019.

As a female mathematician (and European by birth) who has done her PhD in Applied Mathematics and her first year of PostDoctoral Research Associate appointment in the United States, I was so thrilled to attend my first European meeting dedicated to women in Mathematics. In fact, even though I was born and raised in Italy, I had never attended any conference in Europe until this past summer. This conference was a great occasion for me to connect with the talented and passionate researchers that currently work in Europe.

I gave acontributed talk, titled “Efficient representation of high-order operators for the numerical solution of PDEs”, that shows some research resulta of the Center for Efficient Exascale Discretizations (CEED), part of the United States initiative called the Exascale Computing Project (ECP), whose aim is to reach exascale computing (i.e., 1018 floating point operations per second!) in the near future

While at the conference, I particularly enjoyed the friendly atmosphere created by a gathering of mostly women. I attended with great interest the panel discussion titled “Gap – Solutions”. This panel was focused on providing solutions to the  problem of disparity in the gender representation in the scientific (and, in particular, the mathematical) community. This problem is particularly felt, not only in Europe, but especially in the United States of America, where I currently live and work, and where the numbers in the work force of women in STEM  are much worse than in Europe. In fact, this difference in representation of women in academia was a shock for me when I  started my PhD program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology: only two research faculty members were women out of almost forty professors in the faculty of my department. Attending the WM2 conference, and the gender-gap panel in particular, was a great opportunity for me to share my personal experience and learn about the measures that are adopted in different countries to address this issue. We all shared our experiences and talked about issues that women in STEM  face and need support for, such as the impostor syndrome. We had a fruitful exchange of ideas, that can hopefully help create and maintain a supportive community of female mathematicians, even across the Atlantic, and create connections that otherwise would be hard to make.