Down the CMS memory lane
As I began my mandate as vice-president (Quebec) this past June, I took a moment to reflect on the many contributions that the Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS) makes to our community in Canada. If you are reading this, you are probably already aware of the society’s activities and its multi-sided initiatives. Yet there are also various ways in which the Canadian Mathematical Society directly impacts each of its members, and others who may not even be CMS members. From this perspective, I pinpointed three moments in my own career when the Canadian Mathematical Society played a memorable role for me.
I have completed my PhD at University of Rochester under the supervision of Michael Gage who is best known for his pioneering work on the curve shortening flow. Shortly after graduation, I had the occasion to attend a CMS Winter Meeting, my first, held at Queen’s University. For what I know, this chance might have come about because my advisor could not attend and suggested that I go in his place. As one of my first academic trips, I remember it very well. I flew into Montreal’s Mirabel airport, which is no longer in use for commercial flights holding a touch of historical significance for the Montreal resident that I am now, and I drove to Kingston, Ontario along St. Lawrence River, and Thousand Islands. Beyond the lectures and presentations which, honestly, I do not remember well, what stands out in my memory is the excitement of meeting authors of papers in my field and engaging in conversations with them. At this meeting, I have made several connections that would shape my career and I, unknowingly, encountered some of the colleagues I now have in Montreal. While my story may not completely capture it, I experienced a sense of integration in the broader mathematical community or, at least, it undeniably felt that way back then.
In those days, before the prevalence of online collaboration tools, personal interactions were particularly important. Even today, I believe that face-to-face interactions hold great value, especially for young researchers for which we may underestimate the impact of in-presence professional meetings on their careers. It is worth pointing out that the CMS meetings have evolved since my first participation to offer a larger array of activities: mini-courses, career advice workshops, panels of discussion on various academic topics, sessions for students, and more. So, we should encourage even more our current and former students to attend the Canadian Mathematical Society’s meetings.
The other two CMS memorable instances in my career occurred somewhere between six and seven years ago. Alongside an amazingly dedicated instructor, Ildiko Pelczer, I was involved in creating a weekly enriching math program for elementary and high school students in Montreal. At an early stage of the process, the Canadian Mathematical Society provided support through one of its Endowment Grants (for which a call just went out recently!) and this contributed to the creation of the Montreal Math Circle. Although not a substantial grant, the CMS Endowment Grant provided essential support and, implicitly, the recognition that helped secure further funding for this activity, paving its way to survive the pandemic and to continue to this day.
Lastly, during my tenure as scientific director of Quebec’s Institut des sciences mathématiques (ISM), the institute’s funding faced potential cuts. The ISM plays a vital role in coordinating and supporting financially all graduate programs in mathematical sciences in Quebec. It also serves as equal partner of the Centre de recherches mathématiques (CRM) in their postdoctoral program, and coordinates several activities (colloquia, student conferences, summer schools, outreach) at all levels. Close to 500 mathematicians signed then a letter addressed to the provincial government in support of the institute and its mission. Among signatories, the CMS president at the time, Lia Bronsard, lent her support. Meanwhile, I am happy to report that ISM did have his funding renewed and, eventually, increased.
While my experiences provide a modest glimpse into the meaningful impact of the Canadian Mathematical Society, I offer them as an invitation to readers to embark on their own journey of reflection. It is through the collective personal experiences that we become aware of the role that CMS plays in our lives, how important is to count on its presence, and why it deserves our wholehearted support.
Furthermore, allow me to conclude by donning my hat as one of the Scientific Directors of the upcoming CMS Winter Meeting in Montreal and extending, or perhaps renewing, a warm invitation to you, your students, and postdocs to attend the meeting this December. I hope that this Winter meeting will create some memorable moments that, one day, one of you will find worth writing about too. No, strike that! Looking at how the program shapes out, I know that it will create some notable memories that one of you could write about one day.