I gave a talk at Harvard yesterday!


And I loved it. It was part of the still-figuring-itself-out joint Harvard-MIT Postdoc science sharing seminars. My talk only lasted 8 minutes, and was about the online optimization problem I’m doing my research on. But there was hardly any mathematician / computer scientist / statistician / electrical engineer in the audience. And this might be why I really enjoyed it.

It’s a bit of a paradox though. 8 minutes, that’s very short. And to give an 8-minute talk to non-specialist is a huge challenge and a frustrating endeavour. I mean, there was not even enough time to describe my model! Nor could I explain how it generalized a bunch of problem, why my approach to the problem (based on tracking dual variables using primal indicators) could give a unified view on a bunch of things and why I was stuck in my proof attempt. These are the truly exciting things of my research. But there was no time for any of that.

But that’s okay. Because my goal was not to show what I have successfully achieved — as is so often the case in talks for specialist. Nor was it to teach the audience something they will be tested on. Instead, as always when I do science and math popularization, I wanted to show why what I do is so exciting, or, at least, how excited I am to do what I do. And the only way I know to do so is to make sure that the audience and I all share a great time. And we did — beer helped! At least I did.

I don’t have much of a career plan but I do know that this is exactly what I like most. I love sharing exciting mathematical moments with an audience…