Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Transformative Congreso Futuro in Chile with Thanks to the Organizers, Speakers and Volunteers

Last night I returned from the extraordinary 2019 Congreso Futuro, which took place in Chile from January 14-20. I had been invited to speak at this truly unique Congress last April via a formal letter  from Senator (Senador) Guido Girardi Lavín, President, Future Challenges, Science, Technology and Innovation Commission, who was writing on behalf of the Chilean Congress, the Government of the Republic of Chile and the Chilean Academy of Sciences. This year's Congress was the eight annual one and the Congress has become the most important free and open-access scientific forum in Latin America. According to the invitation: It is unique in the region for providing Nobel laureates, scientists, researchers, artists, opinion leaders and citizens alike the opportunity to experience some of the world’s most cutting-edge research, participate in the understanding of emerging trends and actively engage in the innovation of ideas and debates that directly influence the globe. 

Dr. Girardi is a true visionary and leader and all those who had the fabulous experience of taking part in the Congreso Futuro are indebted to him for the incredible intellectual exchanges, social events, as well as cultural ones. New friendships and partnerships have been made across disciplines and across the globe because of this Congreso Futuro!

The Congreso Futuro was a transformative event and experience with about 100 presenters from around the globe. The attention to detail was incredible, with an individual itinerary provided for each speaker plus each one of us was assigned a student volunteer.  The Congress consists of TED-like talks as well as panels and I thoroughly enjoyed sessions on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to climate change to food insecurity. 
The venue in Santiago was the former National Congress, which is a stunning building surrounded by a garden.
In addition to snacks and lunches provided to the speakers there was even a magnificent banquet last Wednesday evening hosted by the Chilean President Sebastián Piñera at the presidential palace in Santiago. The conversations there that continued throughout the Congress I will treasure.

There was a full day (last Saturday) on the Nobel Prize Dialogue on The Future of Learning in  which 4 Nobel laureates took part and representatives from the Nobel Foundation and panelists as well. There was a lovely lunch provided and closing remarks, and since I have had Visiting Professorships at both KTH in Stockholm and at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden it was delightful to meet the delegation from Sweden.
I had the pleasure of speaking in Santiago on January 15 and then at one of the regional venues in Valparaiso on January 17. At the former, I was part of a session on Making Sense of Complexity Through Simplicity that included Daniel Hurtado of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile,  Robert Sutor of IBM (who was born in Yonkers, where I obtained much of my schooling), and Brian Farrell of Harvard University. My talk in Santiago was on The Era of Supernetworks and it was livestreamed.
My presentation in Valparaiso was on Women in Science: A Personal Journey and the video can be accessed here (with Spanish translation). I expect that, as in previous years, all the talks in Santiago will be posted soon. Joining me in Valparaiso at the National Congress were the Nobel laureate Michael Kosterlitz, professor at my alma mater Brown University, Amber Case, and Floyd Romesberg and we enjoyed travel there and back with our great driver, Juan Carlos, and even had a tour of Valparaiso, which is a UNESCO site. Each talk was followed by a very stimulating panel and discussions.

At our event, 8 ambassadors of Latin American countries came to our talks and panels that followed and even joined us for lunch!
We were hosted in Valparaiso by Senador Chahuan and we thank him for the exceptional hospitality! 

I was thrilled when a group of girls showed up for my presentation in Valparaiso who are part of an award-winning national robotics team and also was absolutely delighted when Dean Juan Kuznar even mentioned the Stem Gems book, edited by Stephanie Espy,  in which I am featured, along with 43 other role models for young girls.
To the wonderful speakers, who are true trailblazers that I met and I will never forget; to the superb student volunteers and staff, and to the extraordinary organizers, a thank you from the bottom of my heart! You set new standards for intellectual exchanges and experiences! Also, many thanks to the wonderful journalists, including Macarena Pizarro of CNN Chile, who took the time to interview me.

Goodbye, beautiful Chile, and the fabulous Congreso Futuro! Till we meet again!
And, to add to the Chilean experience, last Saturday night at about 10:30PM as I was drifting off to sleep because of an early departure back to North America the next morning, my bed in the hotel room started shaking, and when I checked the Chilean news there had, indeed, been an earthquake in Coquimbo, registered at 6.7.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year - New Country - Thanks to the Congreso Futuro in Chile

On the first day of the New 2019 Year I thought it appropriate to write about what I am very excited about - and that is my forthcoming trip to a country I have never been to before - Chile!

I have a connection to that country since for two years my room-mate at Brown University during my undergraduate days was a Chilean, Teresa Davila, who was also an Applied Math major and lover of Operations Research. This former ballerina was a member of the Brown women's crew (rowing) team while I ran track and cross country and also double majored.

The invitation to speak in Chile came last April with an email message and an official letter on behalf of Senator Girardi, President of the Senate's Future Challenges, Science, Technology and Innovation Commission in Chile, to participate as a Guest Speaker in the upcoming VIII Futures Congress (Congreso Futuro in Spanish), "a global flagship knowledge engagement event set to take place between the 14th-20th January 2019". Since the establishment of  the Futures Congress in 2011, it has become a major forum in Latin America for addressing the many challenges that humanity is faced with and brings together scientists and humanists to discuss how we can achieve a better future. Our itineraries are planned with great attention to detail with lunches and dinners organized as well as excursions for those interested.

I am so honored and thankful to be representing the Isenberg School of Management and the University of Massachusetts Amherst at the Futures Congress!

The Futures Congress takes place in Santiago, Chile, along with other locations in Chile and the venues are magnificent, as evidenced from past congresses.
I will have the pleasure of speaking in the thematic session: Shaping Our Lives, Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World with renowned scientists that I am very excited about meeting: Dr. Daniel Hurtado of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Dr. Geoffrey West of Stanford University, and Dr. Robert Sutor of IBM!  I will give the talk: The Era of Supernetworks.

Subsequently, I will speak in Valparaiso at a full day event and the title of my talk there, which will be followed by a panel discussion, is: Women in Science: A Personal Journey. This event will take place in the Salón de Honor Congreso Nacional. I have thoroughly enjoyed preparing my talks and am in the final stages of polishing them.

Also speaking at the Futures Congress is the Nobel laureate in physics Dr. Michael Kosterlitz, who had an office across the hall from my office in Barus and Holley when I was a PhD student at Brown University! And, as for other serendipitous connections, Dr. Susan Fiske of Princeton University will also be speaking at the Futures Congress. She was formerly a faculty member at UMass Amherst and we have mutual close friends. I am sure that I will come across other speakers with which there are surprising and delightful connections!

It is truly remarkable how wonderful and linked the scientific community is even across disciplines - last year, Dr. Alyssa Goodman of Harvard University was a speaker at the Congreso Futuro. She co-directs the science program at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard where I have been a Science Fellow and have also spent most of my past two summers!

I have been brushing up on my Spanish, even during the holiday festivities during this past week and will be also speaking with my Isenberg School of Management Marketing colleague, Dr. Francisco Villarroel  Ordenes, who is now in Chile (but, sadly our times there will not overlap).

Many thanks to the organizers of the Congreso Futuro for inviting me. I am very much looking forward to what will be an extraordinary intellectual, social as well as cultural experience!