Universiteit Leiden

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From wine tears to cloud transport: large mathematical conference in Leiden

The winner of the highest scientific distinction in mathematics, an explanation for wine tears and much more mathematical theory and application. From 8 to 12 July, 550 mathematicians will meet in the center of Leiden to discuss differential equations.

It is the first time the Equadiff conference is hosted in the Netherlands. This biennial conference focuses on differential equations in the broadest sense. Mathematicians use differential equations to describe how things change in the world. For example the decline of radioactive material, the movement of heat or the growth of populations. Mathematicians regard Equadiff as a guide for new developments in the rapidly developing field of differential equations, which is highly relevant both inside and outside mathematics.

Traditionally, the Netherlands is strong in differential equations, and the discipline is also well represented at Leiden University within the Mathematical Institute. The institute and the national organising committee are very proud to welcome the international scientific field in Leiden.

Alessio Figalli

Speakers: winner of the ‘Nobel Prize in Mathematics’

The programme contains a series of well-known names. Alessio Figalli is one of the main speakers. This young Italian mathematician won the Fields Medal in 2018, also known as the Nobel Prize in mathematics. Figalli (ETH Zurich) is working on the theory of optimal transport: the search for the most efficient way to move things from one place to the other. The theory has many unexpected applications, according to Figalli. For example in clouds, which consist of billions of particles. We know that transport takes place in nature with as little energy as possible. How then does every particle move from one point to another during the evolution of a cloud?

Wine tears

For thirty years, scientists have been trying to understand why wine forms ‘tears’ in the glass - an alleged sign of quality. Andrea Bertozzi (University of California) studied the phenomenon from a mathematical perspective. She discovered that shock waves play a role. During her lecture on Friday, she promises to also give a real-life presentation of the phenomenon.

Shipbuilding, optical fibers, germinating seeds

The work of Wednesday speaker Margaret Beck (Boston University) focuses on the behavior of waves and patterns in a variety of contexts, such as liquids and gases. Good mathematical descriptions of these phenomena are important in meteorology, for example, and they also provide valuable knowledge for the understanding of the patterns and dynamics that are observed in chemical reactions.

Edriss S. Titi (Texas A&M University, University of Cambridge and Weizmann Institute of Science) speaks on Tuesday. He is a worldwide renowned applied mathematician specialising in fluid mechanics, oceans and atmospheric movements, chemical reactions and data assimilation.

Chad Topaz (Williams College) organises a parallel session by invitation. He works on subjects from data science to biological swarms and patterns in nature. He is also an experienced speaker for the general public and founder of QSIDE: Institute for the Quantitative Study of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity.

Vivi Rottschäfer

From pharmacology to ecology

One of the Leiden mathematicians who present their work is Vivi Rottschäfer, also one of the organisers of Equadiff. She works on mathematical theory that often has direct applications in various fields, ranging from pharmacology to ecology. Think of medication and transport through the body, and helping bees to survive the winter. In the Mathematics and Industry Study Group, she worked among others on weather and climate forecasts, oil, gas and water transport in pipelines and seed germination.


Leiden mayor Henri Lenferink opens the conference on Monday morning, 8 July. The Equadiff programme lasts for five days and takes place entirely in the city center of Leiden. In addition to Figalli, ten other speakers will give keynote lectures in the Hooglandse Kerk for all congress visitors. The Kamerlingh Onnes Building will also host 35 mini-symposia on various topics. All information about the programme can be found on the website of Equadiff.

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