The IMS provides funds for new researchers to travel to attend IMS meetings. This year the last four Laha Travel Awards were made, and 12 of the new IMS Travel Awards, helping 16 new researchers to travel to the JSM. We asked them to share their experiences.

Eleven of the IMS Laha and Travel Award winners, at JSM in August with Hans Künsch

A few of the group had attended a JSM previously, but Semhar Michael said it was her first IMS meeting, and the JSM was “a great experience and a little overwhelming”—understandable, with over 5,000 attendees. Shanshan Wang said, “This was my first JSM, and I think it is a wonderful conference where people meet and present their research results. I learned some novel and brilliant ideas from the talks and got to know some people.”

Yin Xia said she enjoyed “many good talks” in her area, high-dimensions. Semhar said she attended talks both related and unrelated to her field: “The talks related to my field gave me an insight into different approaches to the same problem. The other talks which were not related to my field were useful since I was giving a talk so I could see how people do their presentation and so on.” Wei Sun “attended some talks given by people from industry, e.g., Google, IBM. It’s great to know how statistics works in the real world.”

Seung Jun Shin attended talks in data mining and high-dimensional data analysis: “Some talks provided for me a whole different way of viewing problems that people, including me, tackle in a conventional way and that was awesome.” He appreciated the wide range of topics: “I can find anything I want since there a lot of sessions with different topics.”

Marcel Carcea
picked out a few highlights: “I really enjoyed Post PhD: What to Expect in Your First Year, the experiences of six post-PhD students in finding a job. I attended a couple of talks that might help me improve my research topic. I also found useful the more general topic talks, like the introductory lecture on Twenty Years of Gibbs Sampling/MCMC. Speakers like Nate Silver and Vijay Nair were inspiring and entertaining. I enjoyed [the IMS Presidential Address] Ars Conjectandi: 300 Years Later. It put the field of probability and statistics in perspective, enriching the experience I had at JSM 2013.”

Yao Yu said that attending talks inspired her research, and she could also improve her presentation skills “by attending talks of different styles. I can learn how to explain my research work, how to answer questions and how to accept ideas from other researchers.”

Marcel found JSM “uplifting. Of course, the meeting is big and requires a lot of shifting from one room to another, which can get tiring after two or three days. But once I got back to Dallas and I started reviewing the whole experience I was surprised with how much I learned and how many people I met.”

As for the location, Semhar said Montreal was “beautiful, […] more like a European city. I loved walking by the old port.” Seung Jun had assumed Canada would be quite like the US, “but it didn’t take long to realize my mistake,” adding that he loved its European feel. Marcel “wholeheartedly enjoyed the pastries” and “the authenticity of Chinese food in Chinatown, Montreal.”

Zheng (Tracy) Ke attended many invited and contributed talks, and “got to know what people are doing in my area and what problems they are interested in now.” JSM “provides a very good opportunity for people—both mature researchers and young people—to communicate their ideas,”

Seung Jun would “absolutely” recommend that other new researchers apply for an IMS Travel Award. Marcel agreed: “Attending a meeting like JSM (especially as a presenter) can be eye opening, a career-direction setter, and let’s not forget, a CV booster. Attending a congress like this is not cheap though. So the IMS Travel Award can help reduce the financial strain a young researcher might feel when attending such meetings.” Sunyoung Shin added, “If you are working in statistical theory and probability, I strongly recommend you apply for an IMS Travel Award. [You] can get inspiration for your future work and meet potential coworkers and mentors.”

All the awardees who responded said they intend to remain in academia; for some, attending the meeting reaffirmed that commitment. Zhao Ren is in the last year of his PhD and considering an academic career: “Attending IMS Annual Meeting and JSM makes me feel more confident and determined in my choice.”

Will we be seeing them at a future IMS meeting? Semhar said emphatically, “Yes, definitely!” Wei Sun, a third-year PhD student, plans to “attend IMS meetings often. I appreciate your organization.” Seung Jun “always wants to be a part of IMS.”

It’s worth applying, then! See how to apply here.