Reports from ECCS11 Bursary Winners

One of the work packages of ASSYST is to provide conference support and, in particular, to attempt to increase variety in the CS community by supporting female scientists and minority groups. This year we provided 32 bursaries to people to attend ECCS’11. The bursaries provided limited contributions towards the conference fee and/or travel expenses for female scientists, young researchers, and others who would otherwise be unable to attend ECCS’11. There were also a number of conditions for receiving the bursary, one of which was to provide feedback about how they had benefitted from attending the conference. You can read the full reports at below.

Erika Fille T. Legara
As envisioned, I had such a worthwhile time and experience at the 2011 European Conference on Complex Systems. Learning about the latest trends in my field of research was very enlightening and inspiring, especially that the lectures came from the prominent people in the field. In addition to the engaging research topics, I also enjoyed the conversations and discourse I had with my contemporaries, most especially with other YRN (Young Researcher Network in CSS) members who were present at the conference. The series of networking events was particularly beneficial to the young researchers. Finally, the conference was a very ideal environment for a fresh PhD graduate who is into complex systems research and who is currently in search for possible post-doctoral positions. I, myself, had the opportunity to discuss my interests, possible research directions and options with the professors present at the ECCS11. Altogether, I had a very productive stay at the conference.

Ali Sanayei
The 2011 European Conference on Complex Systems held at the Medical University of Vienna was a nice opportunity to meet many people who work on “complex systems” from different points of view. Although there is no a unique definition of a “complex system” so far, the various kinds of contributions and discussions confirmed that finding an appropriate definition of a “complex system” is still problematic.
The conference was organized very well and I really appreciate Stefan Thurner, his crew, Complex Systems Society, ASSYST, and all the sponsors for this success. The only comment that I want to point out is the lack of philosophical discussions in the meeting. It would be so nice if we had even one keynote speaker to talk about “complex systems” from a philosophical point of view. Although we saw “foundations of complex systems” as one of the main interest topics of the conference, it did not cover philosophical viewpoint at all. I hope that we have such discussions in the forthcoming conference which is so important and necessary to improve the “science of complex systems”.

Junhuan Zhang
I acknowledge ASSYST for providing me a bursary to attend ECCS’11 from 12-16 September. I got a wonderful time in this conference. Firstly, my poster was reviewed and discussed by many professors and PhD students. And I can make a further improvement to my research based on these discussions. Moreover, I learnt many new developments in the application of complex system to finance after listening to other scholars’ presentation, especially for Complex Dynamics of Human Interactions to financial markets. Through the whole conference, I also attended the FuturICT / YRN Complex ECCS 2011 networking event. In this event, I made many good friends from different countries and further cooperation will be held in the similar interests between us.

Raffaello Morales
Attending ECCS’11 has been the most exciting and profitable experience since I’ve started my PhD. In just a week time I had the opportunity to meet basically all the relevant personalities of the field I work in and to share with them opinions and advices on the forefront topics. For me it was also very important as it has been the first opportunity to discuss my research with the scientific community. The network of contacts that I have established in this occasion will no doubt help me to develop new ideas and will foster collaborations and exchange of opinions which are fundamental for a healthy science.

Olesya Mryglod
The conference ECCS’11 was special for me mostly because of its interdisciplinarity. It was very useful to meet people from very different branches of science and to find common interests. In some presentations I was interested due to considered objects. New methods and approaches were described by the other speakers. It was great to find some information about fresh software to analyze, to compare and to visualize complex networks. I also liked the first FuturICT session with “brainstorm” – I think it’s a good idea to bring together young researchers with very different scientific backgrounds. So, I can conclude that I spent a good time in a sense of communication and in a sense of inspiration to work.

Pavel Em
Attending to ECCS’11 in Vienna was really good time! It was significant because we were in the public lecture of Nobel Prize awarder, listened speeches of many scientists from over the world, made our presentations and met a lot of interesting people. Besides, Vienna with its cultural atmosphere was unforgettable. After ECCS’11 in Vienna I want to working more diligently. I presented results of my research on poster section and on one of satellites. I hope to present new results of my researches in ECCS’12 in Brussels.

Parongama Sen
The ECCS1’11 conference had the format of three days of lectures on general topics and two days of different satellite conferences. A number of topics of interest to me like complex networks, econophysics, sociophyics were covered in the conference by leading scientists working in these fields. The scope of the subject “complex systems” is very large and I am thankful for the opportunity to get the feeling of which of the issues are currently gaining attention and why. This is very important to survive as an active research worker. I also had the chance to discuss my own problems with several senior participants in the conference, like C. Castalleno, B. Tadic among others as well as the younger group. The poster session was quite well attended and discussions during the poster session were especially helpful. Overall, the conference had a number of very good talks (unfortunately because of the parallel sessions, it was not possible to attend all) and posters with a broad spectrum of topics.

Alessio Cardillo
My Experience about the 2011 European Conference on Complex Systems (ECCS) in Wien (Austria) can be summarised as amazing. During the conference days I had the opportunity to talk and share ideas with many people with many different scientific backgrounds to mine. This, combined with the great feedback I had about the poster I presented at the main conference, gave me the opportunity to develop new ideas and establish scientific relations with a lot of people also attending the conference. Also, given the general scope of the conference, I had the possibility to see the state of the art in the whole field of complexity science. These two facts alone are enough for me to consider the attendance to ECCS conference a success. The ASSYST bursary provided me the chance to achieve this important experience. Without the bursary, I would have not been able to go to the conference due to the small amount of funds at my disposal for travelling. Thanks to ASSYST, my research can boost towards better (hopefully) destinations in the upcoming times.

Oxana Chesnokova
I am really happy that I have visited ECCS’11. There I have learnt many interesting things, for instance, a lot about superstatistics and generalized entropy. It isn’t strictly related to my current work but is really interesting for me as a physicist by education. It was a good luck for me to make the acquaintance of students who work with Constantino Tsallis. It is really useful to know them and have an opportunity to discuss their work. We are still in touch and I hope it is just a beginning.

In addition to the above, I should mention about outstanding talks of M.Gell-Mann and R.Devaney. M.Gell-Mann is a living classic. So it was really inspiring to have opportunity to talk to him after his talk. It was pleasant to figure out that he knows Russian letters and some Russian words.

Mauricio Girardi
The European Conference on Complex Systems had a challenge to group the most relevant works in different branches of complexity. I think this task was fulfilled, letting people to contact with views and approaches to problems where physicist, economist, chemists, biologists, etc can strongly interact. The major benefits, certainly not only for me, in participating this conference were the open-minding, the exchange of experience and contacts for future cooperation. High level seminars (including Nobel prized celebrity), talks and poster presentations enriched my baggage. I would like to thank ASSYST for giving me the opportunity to participate this fantastic event.

Michele Tizzoni
Attending ECCS’11 has been for me a great opportunity to meet young and senior researchers in the field of complex systems. I enjoyed the talks presented by some outstanding keynote speakers, like Murray Gell-Mann and Geoffrey West among others, and several exceptional contributed talks in the parallel sessions. Moreover, I met many young Ph.D students engaged in the Young Researches Network in Complex Systems Science. Most of them are working on topics different from mine, therefore interacting with them I could discover new research areas and exchange ideas on different research fields. Eventually, I had the unique opportunity to present my work in a session of the main conference and receive useful feedbacks on my presentation! I have to say that thanks to the support of ASSYST I met a vibrant research community, which truly inspired me for my future research work.

Carlos G. Acevedo-Rocha
It is difficult to say how I benefited from the ECCS11 conference since it was full of very interesting people and exciting concepts emerging in the field of complexity science. Nevertheless, as I told many people: “You can follow a lecture either completely or very partially since most of the scientists use different languages and methods owed to the interdisciplinary nature of the conference”. Although I could not follow many lectures because of the mathematics, algorithms or whatsoever terminology, I was very happy to learn new things in areas not directly related to mine. However, in the following lines I want to exemplify how I benefited from the concepts explained in a particular lecture, which could be applied to my research field. In his keynote lecture, Peter Schuster explained methods developed to quantify fitness landscapes of RNA molecules, which I think, will be possible to apply likewise in proteins. In the field of protein engineering and evolution, the reconstruction of empirical fitness landscapes reveals paths accessible for evolution. The fitness landscape depends on the variable that is being looked for; consider, for example, an enzyme able to resolve one of two possible enantiomers (these are structurally similar molecules albeit with opposite chirality and thus properties). The efficiency of the kinetic resolution for one or the other enantiomer by an enzyme would depend on its mutations within the active site, among other factors. Beneficial mutations can be obtained by a method called Iterative Saturation Mutagenesis, whereby carefully selected residues close to the active site of an enzyme are randomized to a desire amino acid alphabet (e.g. 20 canonical amino acids) in an iterative manner. After several rounds of the trio variation-selection-amplification followed by screening, one or more variants with a desired fitness can be obtained, from which the evolutionary pathway can be established by reconstructing evolutionary intermediate proteins with different degrees of fitness. The analysis of evolutionary pathways allows understanding not only how bio-molecules such as proteins are constrained by evolution, but also to explore how different beneficial mutations arise and thus shed a light on the efficacy of the directed evolution methods being used. For instance, is it possible to optimize a protein by selecting in the next round of mutagenesis positive or negative fitness variants? Can the same or better fitness be achieved by exploring different evolutionary pathways? I aim to answer these questions during my postdoc, so I am very happy that I was able to learn methods and ways of thinking of other scientists working with nonlinear systems.

Jing Qin
When I start to write this paragraph, it has been a while since I attended ECCS’11. However, the memory during this particular period of time is still so fresh to me. Every talk I attended in the conference, every technique I learned there, and every wonderful moment I shared with my new friends whom I met there, just like happened yesterday. I truly enjoyed each day, each hour and each second I spent during ECCS’11 in Vienna.

I enjoyed the conference for the following reasons. First, it indeed represents the most advanced level of the research in complex system. As a junior postdoc, I truly cherished this opportunity by which I can learn from the best scientists in order to have a touch with the newest topic of the field. Secondly, it is also helpful and considerable for junior researchers to understand the benefits and challenges of a network approach. For instance, a short and general course on complex networks theory, provided by one of the satellites named XNet. Last but not the least, not only through the conference, but also some chances offered by the young person’s network at CSS, I have met some new friends who work in the similar field with me, we have a lot of common topic to talk with each other.

At the end of this letter, I really want to thank the European ASSYST project and the Complex Systems Society for offering me this great opportunity to attend the conference. It is really a great and wonderful conference.

Andrzej Jarynowski
ECCS’11 was for me a highly-dense learning & teaching platform. I’ve never learnt as much during only one week! Possibility of listening to people, who I’ve known from books or papers, interacting with other young research and sharing experience, confirmed that my hard work in science can be profitable. I’ve appreciated very much also a feedback given after my presentation, which has already improved my models. Summarizing, I’d like to thank for supporting my participation at ECCS’11, because without that, I probably couldn’t attend and lost all profits I’ve gained.

S. M. Bouguima
I could not have attended this project without the support of Assyst. I recognize, and I am grateful for the financial support of the Open University. During the conference, I had many conversations about my research. I was able to meet important people in the field and get acquainted with much material and learn some technical issues related to my work. I succeed to make some problems into perspective. More precisely, in our model, I presented a prey-predator system; it will be interesting to consider the effect of fragmentation of the environment. This will lead us to a patchy model which can be studied by the material presented in this conference. I had heard of new thing, namely application of game, network and statistical mechanics in more concrete problems like population dynamics, sociability, and policy. Last but not least, I would to express my sincere thanks for Jane Bromley.

Dr. Agata Fronczak
I have mixed feelings after the conference. Below I outline a few observations.
First, there are no strong leaders in the community, I mean scientific leaders. Why do I think so? Most of invited and keynote speakers did not present interesting results. Here, another problem arises, what is the acceptance procedure for talks? I am not lonely in the feeling that the key ingredient is: “he is my colleague”, or “she is a colleague of my colleague”. The argument behind the statement is that a short abstract, instead of a long paper (as it was on the previous ECCS events) is enough to decide whether to accept the talk or not. With this the organizers say: we do not need to know what have you done, tell us who are you, do you have grants, who is you boss, should I know you? On the other hand, maybe, the weakness of the talks is due to crises of the science of complex systems, and the science as a whole. Professors presenting nondescript results of their PhD students – it is not the way for doing serious research. The famous relation between the Master and his Student, where is it? 99% of PhD students claim that they meet their supervisors a few times a year…

Second, the CS community dramatically needs to educate its own students. The science of complex systems must be more critical. Pure physicist is not able to create reliable economic models. Pure biologist happens ridiculous in describing natural processes by means of nonlinear equations with complexity exceeding his/her comprehension.

Now a few positive remarks:
The lecture by Prof. West was very interesting. Prof. West is a great scientist, the best showcase for the science of complex systems. I will also remember the lecture of Prof. Tsallis. Although, I think that the idea of non-extensive entropy would gain much more attention if Prof Tsallis was not so attached to his own formulation of the concept.

Funda Atun
I have encountered European Conference on Complex Systems while working on complexity theory to find some insights for understanding the nature of dynamic city systems. Since the very beginning I was very excited about being involved in the conference and I would say that the conference answered to all my expectations by high quality of the talks and the perfect organization. During the conference I have had the opportunity to share the results of my ongoing research and to improve them by discussing with other scholars and by gaining experiences from high quality and various talks. ECCS’11 conference was very valuable experience for me in terms of improving my knowledge on complexity science, knowing about recent studies and interacting with other researchers. I would like to thank ASSYST for providing me this great opportunity.

Angel Akio Tateishi
An international conference is always a great experience: all kinds of English pronunciation, ALL KINDS! We know others cultures, foods, people and especially for ECCS’11 I’ve had to learn to enjoy sparkling water and apple juice (with bubble water). However, in despite of the cultural differences two thing are the same: the passion and dedication of the conference participants to science, and meet people like that make us want to study more and more.

Fernando Jose Antonio
European Conference on Complex Systems (ECCS’11) was a huge event gathering physicists from many countries. The talks were very interesting. Additionally, the poster sections were very impressive.
Participating of ECCS’11 was a great opportunity to engage with people from different universities, providing an initial connection to interact with them.

Barbora Trubenova
I am a PhD student at the University of Manchester. This year, owing to the bursary I received, I had a pleasure to participate in the European Conference on Complex Systems 2011. As this was my first conference ever, I did not know what to expect, however, I am very satisfied with the experience. This conference allowed me to learn more about research methods used in complex systems and to get some new ideas for my future research. I received very helpful comments on my presentation and a feedback on my own work, which will undoubtedly help me with my further studies.
I was pleased to meet other researchers working on similar problems, but I also appreciated the opportunity to learn about completely different areas of research. I enjoyed the conference very much and I hope to attend the European Conference on Complex Systems next year as well.

Christian Beck
The ECCS in Vienna was a nice experience and probably one of the largest meetings so far, with around 700 participants. My invited talk went well and I benefited from lots of discussions with friends and colleagues. A particularly nice experience was to have dinner with Nobel-prize winner Murray Gell-Mann and to discuss with him on superstatistics (a generalized statistical mechanics method for complex systems). Some of the talks at ECCS were excellent and inspired me to think about future research projects in complexity science.

Many Thanks for ASSYST for awarding a bursary to attend the European conference for complex systems (ECCS11). This conference has benefited me immensely in terms of sharing my artistic perspective of “complexity” to a diverse global audience. Each day of my art making I would find people from different domains interacting with my work in manifold ways. Their questions and feedback were profound which in turn has acted as a feeder to my thought process. This conference has also helped me find new friends who have shared valuable resources and contacts to add value to my future work. Apart from personal benefits, I had a wonderful opportunity to listen to many speakers and presentations at the conference. I found them very illuminating. My understanding of complex systems has now shaped further.

Giovanni Petri
ECCS 2011 was a splendid conference by all accounts and it was the ASSYST bursary that allowed me to profit from all this. On the scientific level, the quality of the keynote and, generally, the speakers was very high and managed to convey the breadth of complex systems science. On the personal level, it was a great opportunity to meet old friends and colleagues, to put a face on that name you saw so often on papers and, personally, to establish some contacts that might prove crucial for a future postdoc. In this sense, for me the ASSYST bursary’s and ECCS11’s effects will (hopefully) be long-lasting.

Roseli S. Wedemann
The ECCS 2011 was very successful. The talks were very interesting in general, with interesting topics related to complex systems research, given by very good speakers. Also the poster sessions presented very interesting work. I also attended good talks in the Satellite Meeting on Complexity and Networks. Particularly useful to my work were the talks on complex networks, related to studies of the brain and mental processes. These provided me with new information on recent developments, which I can apply to my modelling efforts. The conference was very well organized and provided also an excellent opportunity to meet with colleagues living in many different countries, and exchange ideas and information to continue work. It also supported an interesting environment for inter-cultural exchange.

Paul Expert
The conference was a great success thanks to the excellent job done by the organising team in putting together a very high quality programme. Going to ECCS was a great and very beneficial experience as gave me the opportunity to present my work to a wide range of researchers outside my field, and being myself exposed to exciting new ideas and research themes. The social aspect was also very enjoyable. Vienna is a very agreeable human-sized city, loaded with history. The conference gave me the chance to catch up with people and friends I had not seen for a long time, as well as meet new interesting people.

Jan Engelhardt
Thanks to the ASSYST bursary I was able to visit the ECCS in Vienna this year. It was my first ECCS and I was very impressed by the large number of people interested in complex systems sciences. I really enjoyed the environment with a lot of social events especially the conference dinner. I was able to meet a lot of new people working on very different kinds of complex systems. I also got a better understanding of which topics are relevant in Europe e.g. there were much more physical problems than I expected. It was also very intriguing to discuss my research topics during the poster sessions and to listen to the large number of excellent keynote speakers.

Evangelia Panagakou
I am very satisfied from my participation to ECCS ’11. I would really like to thank ASSYST for giving me the chance to attend the conference! The topics of the lectures were very interesting. I learnt about different fields where complexity exists and this gave me some ideas for future work… I met with other young and senior researchers and professors and we talked about my work and their work and we exchanged ideas. Furthermore I had the opportunity to present a poster explaining my group’s work and getting valuable feedback on it. ECCS ’11 and the FuturICT events really helped me to further increase my motivation to continue studying and working on my PhD and on related topics. I look forward to attending ECCS ’12 in Brussels!!

Cigdem Yalcin
European Conference on Complex Systems organization is so well-designed conference which wherever it would be hold, one could feel the energy of the participants. It is very invaluable of the contributions of the European ASSYST project and the Complex Systems Society to young researchers, who would otherwise be unable and in particular female scientists to attend European Conference on Complex Systems. According to my experiences as a female in the science world, this bursary programme of European ASSYST project and the Complex Systems Society is not only a financial support, it also supports the genderlessness in the science. With this bursary programme I had been an opportunity to participate in ECCS’11, to follow the new trends and improving foundations of complex systems theory and to give a poster presentation.