My experiences in the ICEM 2016 conference

Long time no see. Indeed, it’s been almost two weeks since my latest maths-infused post – a hiatus almost unheard of during my short blogging career so far. But, I do have a good reason for me laying-low.

Indeed, I attended the ICEM 2016 conference last week. Well, it was I plus six of my colleagues from my research group. Plus of course the 500-something other participants agglomerating in Lausanne, Switzerland for those three (in)famous days.

Needless to say, the experience was quite something. After all, I’d been waiting for it since early February or so. Here are some of my general impressions, along with some more specific work-related ones. Not organized in any fashion, so enjoy my train of thought.

My Surname

Nobody can either pronounce or understand it. I have given up trying, and simply show my passport whenever I’m checking in or registering to somewhere.

I tried to come up with a pronunciation guide of Lehikoinen, but came up with nothing. Maybe some day.

Lausanne

A city of almost 150 thousand inhabitants in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. (Why is it so that all of my international conferences are so French? Last year it was Compumag in Montréal, Canada. Now this. I wonder what’s next. In case it’s not clear to some of you, I definitely do not speak French.) Quite expensive, yeah, but nothing horrible after Finland.

The people definitely know how to use their hills. For instance, I saw my first-ever inclined metro station. As in literally built in a sloped fashion. Quite disorienting after a 16-hour long day followed by a few glasses of wine at the conference welcome reception.

I managed to squeeze in a visit to a wooden observation tower, severely uphill from the hotel I was staying at. I was even forced to do a short forest hike (not that I minded, of course) to reach it. The view was definitely worth it, and the double helix structure of the tower itself was quite fascinating too.

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Conference in General

As far as conferences go, ICEM  2016 was fairly typical in structure. Welcome reception with wine on the first Sunday, gala dinner with more wine and fancy food on Tuesday evening. Closing ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. Hundreds of poster and oral presentations in between.

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Salmon tartar for starters. Chicken for the main course. Heavenly chocolate tart for dessert. Mine is not the highest-paid profession, but experiences such as this are a nice compensation to say the least.

The venue was the Swisstech Convention Center, a modern-looking building a 15-minute train ride from the Lausanne Center. The campus for the Lausanne Polytechnic (EPFL) was right next to it, too, but alas I had no time to visit it.

People

I kept on meeting super-awesome people for the duration of the entire conference. That’s the beauty in that kind of events. With so many common topics to discuss, it’s very easy to connect. Even for us Finns, who are generally regarded as untalkative at best. Just hang around not looking entirely un-approachable, and somebody will open up a conversation even if you don’t.

Indeed, I think I chatted with tens of people during the event. I even got some very positive feedback about my blog, from my almost-colleagues at VTT and LUT. That was definitely not something I was expecting. At least not hearing it in person. Thus, I was somewhat…don’t really know the nuances of English well enough to come up with a suitable word. A combination of humbled, touched and flattered, I would say, with the emphasis on touched.

So, thank you for your kind words – I really, really appreciate them 🙂

Okay, enough with the touchy-feely crap. Let’s move on to business.

Student Forum

ICEM had a student forum – an opportunity for Ph.D. / Doctoral students to showcase their work. At least this year, the format was basically a poster-shaped research CV.

You can find mine on SlideShare. I obviously took a selfie in front of it and posted it on my Facebook page. Or, you can go back a couple of posts and see that it looks remarkably similar to my poster-selfie at DPEEE, which was like a rehearsal presentation for the same poster. I think it’s time to add “Consistent Selfie-Taking Skills” to my CV.

Anyway, the forum exceeded my expectations by far. Astonishingly many people came to visit. Even more surprisingly to me, they had lots of industry folks amongst them. Very knowledgeable industry folks at that, mind you. I had some very pleasant and engaging discussions with people from e.g.

  • JMAG
  • ABB
  • Siemens
  • A German manufacturer of fan motors for computers etc. Didn’t catch their name, unfortunately.

Many of them even expressed interest in either my Matlab FEM software, or directly in myself. Let’s see if my consulting portfolio gets some more technical contents in the future…

My Conference Paper

Yeah, of course I had an actual presentation in addition to the student forum thing. And of course it had to be the very next morning after the aforementioned gala dinner. Despite some…tiredness, I’d like to think I did fine.

However, I’m not going to describe my paper here, sorry. It’s big enough to deserve its own post soon. If you can’t wait, check out the abstract on ResearchGate.


-Antti


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ICEM 2016 Report

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