Monday, November 20, 2017

MICEMS Development: Genta & Adami's Visit

It has been a year since the inauguration ceremony of MICEMS and just a few months ago, the Rector of Polito, Prof. Gilli and Prof. Adami made a visit to INSPEM to further boost MICEMS development. On 19-22 September 2017, once again we received a delegation from Polito that informs us a newer development on MICEMS. Our Polito's guests are Prof. Giancarlo Genta, a professor of automotive engineering (with his wife accompanying him) and Prof. Adami, making this his third visit.

Prof. Genta's visit is perhaps dues to UPM's interest in his solar sails project via Prof. Renuganth Varadarajoo, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Industry and Community Relations. Sometime last year, Prof. Renu had sent his PhD student to Polito to work with researchers there and hence the connection.

A meeting was held in our institute with our management members to discuss the development of MICEMS. Below are some pics (the full album can be seen here).

From the meeting, there was reassertion of stationing an Italian here to carry collaborative research with us. Prof. Adami mentioned the question of which area to begin with and I was glad that he told me that mathematical physics was one option. However for now, with both Prof. Genta's and Prof. Renu's interest, there is high possibility that the Italian stationed here will be close to automotive and aerospace engineering. It also presented to the institute an opportunity to work closer with the field of engineering industries. Hopefully this initiative can later also be expanded for other fields but it is important to start off with whatever is more realizable the soonest.

In the afternoon, I chaired another Prof. Adami with the rest of the members of the institute. In particular, I asked Dr. Nurisya who has worked with Italian mathematical physicists to come along. The discussion is mainly to get to know each other and Prof. Adami reiterated some points mentioned in the morning. More pics below.

Later, after the meeting, our Italian guests had a taste of durian.

The next day, they had a meeting and lunch with the new Italian ambassador. In the afternoon, I have arranged for a seminar by Prof. Adami. Unfortunately, that day, I wasn't well and I could not come for his talk (my apologies to Prof. Adami). Here are some pics.

The following Friday was Awal Muharram which is a public holiday and they left for Italy that day.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

AFPS 2nd Meet and Workshop

Right before our independence day, a group of us make our way to IAS, NTU Singapore again for the historic event of the signing of the charter for ASEAN Federation of Physics Society (AFPS), which is followed by a workshop on Frontiers of Physics in collaboration with CERN (see here). How did I get involved in this? I guess it is coincidental, being a frequent visitor to IAS for many conferences and workshops. I was asked to bring along some young physicists. Thus I asked Chan Kar Tim and Nurisya Mohd Shah to come along since I hope they will continue the efforts when I retire. We also invited people from other groups; only one agreed but the person did not turn up in the end. Also invited Nurisya's husband, Faisal being editor and founder of Majalah Sains; it would have been good that the event to be covered by Majalah Sains (and it did here and here).

The official representative of Malaysia is the President of Institut Fizik Malaysia, Prof. Kurunathan Ratnavelu. The other Malaysian who came is Dr. Clarissa Ai Ling Lee, now attached to Jeffrey Sachs Centre on Sustainable Development in Sunway University. The three of us were there in the first meeting and this is the second meeting. The meeting began with some welcoming addresses (see programme here), followed by a briefing and discussions among the official representatives from ASEAN countries.

Over in the afternoon, there were presentations from each country. I was asked to present for Malaysia and I took note of the message that one ought to give suggestions of what could be the activities of the forthcoming AFPS. Thus my preparation was focused on suggestions, given that we have described the physics research ecosystem in Malaysia in the first meeting. Later, I found out that other representatives gave introduction to physics activities in their respective countries. So the presentation I gave was slightly different from the rest.

Much later in the afternoon, there was the historic signing of the AFPS charter by respective official representatives (pics below courtesy of Faisal).

Here is the group photo for the meeting:

At the end of the day, it is agreed that Prof. K.K. Phua will be temporarily be the president of AFPS until the proper elections and that IAS, NTU will be the secretariat for AFPS for the first three years. For more photos, see here.

The next day was the workshop where top-notch physicists from CERN and elsewhere gave presentations on current status of physics. I was very interested in what John Ellis had to say, since I followed his work in the mid-80s. He had a slide on what he thinks are the important seven problems in fundamental physics (alluding to 007). I noted that he did not have the problem of three generations of fermions and asked him about that. He replied that if he had to go beyond seven, he would list it down. Here are more pics courtesy of Faisal:

For more photos of the workshop, see here.

It was during this event that I learned about my other half's niece had a brain tumour. So on reaching home, we made it a point to visit her and my sister-in-law. She has undergone a brain surgery (with follow-up surgeries) but was informed they could not completely remove the tumour. She has also undergone radiotherapy and has not really recovered and is still on support system. May Allah gave her strength to recover and carry on with her life.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

ICREM8 and Conferences Galore

As stated in my last post, many things happened since I last blogged. One of this is my return visit to ITB in Bandung for a conference that the Institute had initiated, namely the 8th International Conference on Research and Education in Mathematics, August 11-13, 2017. This is the second time ITB had organized ICREM; the last time was in 2011. I knew of this year's conference quite late and I was asked by the Director to come along to the conference.

We took a flight to Bandung on the morning of 11th and reached after the opening of the conference and thus missed the group photo session. Over there, we met Prof. Maman Djauhari who had just returned to Bandung. He was the one responsible to lend his chauffeur, Ricky, to drive us around during the conference period. Our place of stay there was the Beehive Boutique Hotel, which is nearby the ITB campus (it is said that the hotel is renovated from one of the colonial houses there). So we were picked up to and fro to the conference venue (in the campus) from the hotel by Ricky. It is only much later I know how to get to the conference venue by walking.

The day we arrived was a Friday and I made an attempt to pray at the mosque nearby (Masjid Salman, I was told). It was already late and the mosque was already full. I saw some people giving newspaper away and was initially puzzled. Later I realized, it was to spread the paper on the lawn so that one can pray on it outside the mosque."Bought" some and prayed with many others outside (see photo below).

Later in the afternoon, after Prof. Maman's plenary lecture, we decided to go back to the hotel to complete our check-in and rest. Before coming down to Bandung, I've contacted Prof. Freddy Zen, asking whether I can see him while I am there. He replied positively. I met Prof. Zen years back when I attended KOSEF-JSPS Winter School way back in February 1996. Shared room with him then and it was also there that I've met Kwek. Since then we were in contact and I've invited Zen a few times to UPM while I was in ITMA. It was during the period when he took up the role of a high-rank official and later Deputy Minister, that I've lost touch with him. So we finally met in the cafe of the hotel. He came with his wife. He appeared thinner than how I remembered him. We chatted for more than an hour on personal matters and the progress of science in our countries. He asked me to come again to Bandung for holidays the next time and I really hope I will have the opportunity. Here are some pictures with him and his wife.

The next morning, we went to an interesting talk by keynote speaker Prof. Motoko Kotani, who applied geometrical and topological techniques to materials science. She is the Director of Advanced Institute for Mathematical Research (whose aim is to put mathematics in strong use for materials science) and also the President of Mathematical Society of Japan. Interacted with her a little (particular on her idea of using persistent homology to describe glass systems) and expressed the intent of inviting her to INSPEM one day. Here are some pics (sorry, low quality ones).

Later in the evening, I made it a point to attend Aqilah's presentation in one of the parallel sessions. During her presentation, there was a rock band playing outside and I told her, it must be a tribute to Bob (given that her work was based on papers of Bob's group). Hera again are some low quality pics.

Later that evening was the conference dinner, for which I persuaded Aqilah to attend as well (her hotel was in a different place and I asked Ricky's help to fetch her). Prof. Baskoro again took the lead of the conference dinner night entertaining us. He told me that the musicians there were professional musicians. You can see some pics below.

There were some award presentations for the speakers and coorganizers (see below).

Of course, as expected, Prof. Baskoro called up representatives from each country for a sing-song session. I was almost pulled by Prof. Baskoro to the stage but luckily a guy and two ladies from UTM represented Malaysia. Secretly, I did prepare to sing a song by Samsons, if it was necessary (thank God, it is not). Finally, there was this final sing-together. Some pics.

Some clearer pics courtesy of Dr. Rosnaini:

At the end of the dinner, it was announced that Vietnam will be the next host of ICREM. We were told that Philippines may joined us soon.

On the final day, was INSPEM's representative plenary speaker, Prof. Aida giving her talk.

Right after that, we quickly packed our bags and headed home. Here is Ricky sending us off.

ICREM is a nice opportunity for us (being the parent) to build up ties with our regional partners. Personally, I felt that this tie needs to gel up (at the conference, I only got to chat with Prof. Baskoro and of course Prof. Maman) and this can be done by having a proper standing committee whom (the majority) will be at each ICREM events. We need to strategise this matter for us to remain relevant.

Conferences are meant to serve the (relevant) scientific community. But it is unfortunate, these days, that conferences are held with a prime purpose of generating income. There is nothing wrong with generating income if one can do it but this purpose must remain subservient to the real purpose of the conference, which is the scientific community gathered together for whatever synergistic purposes. Because of monetary purposes which are further tied up with the KPIs, today one finds too many conferences. For Malaysia, with its relative smaller mathematical sciences community, one must be careful not to overdo it since our resources are limited.

It was then last week, I was told that I was appointed as a Deputy Chairman of an upcoming conference International Quantitative Research and Applications 2018 (IQRAC 2018). This is a conference mooted by the President of the Academy of Malaysian Mathematical Scientists Emeritus Professor Dato' Kamel Ariffin (our previous Director) and to be organised jointly with the Institute. Again it is important to identify the community which the conference wishes to address. I hope also this will be a biannual event so as not to coincide or cross path with ICREM itself. In that way, we have ICREM and IQRAC alternately each year. Let us hope for the best.