Thierry Masson, CNRS researcher in mathematical physics
Thierry Masson, CNRS researcher in mathematical physics

In this interview Prof. Thierry Masson speaks about developing science in Southeast Asia after his recent experience in organising a CIMPA Research School at the ICISE conference center.

Thierry Masson talking about developing science in Southeast Asia

Prof. Thierry Masson is a CNRS researcher in mathematical physics at the “Centre de Physique Théorique” in Marseille, France. He was a member of the local organizing committee of the 2017 CIMPA Research School — Rencontres du Vietnam –  Noncommutative Geometry and Applications to Quantum Physics.

He accepted to answer our questions about developing science in Southeast Asia in respect of his research field, Noncommutative geometry.

Which is your field of research?

I work on the geometric and algebraic structures related to fundamental physics, mainly in gauge field theories. I am involved in a vivid reseach activity in mathematics named “Noncommutative Geometry“, whose purpose is to study new mathematical structures combining geometry, algebra and analysis. We hope to make use of these structures in physics to solve pending problems, for instance the quantization of gravity.

Are you based in France or Vietnam?

In France, at the “Centre de Physique Théorique” in Marseille.

You recently organised a CIMPA Research School on Noncommutative Geometry at the ICISE conference center. Was it your first time as a conference organiser in Vietnam?

Actually this was my first visit to Vietnam. I had never been to Asia before.developing science in southeast asia

How many conferences did you organise so far?

The CIMPA Research School on Noncommutative Geometry was the second conference I organized. The first one took place in 2008 in France (Orsay): it was a workshop, whereas this year it was a school, funded mainly by CIMPA – Centre International de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées and ICISE. So there were a lot of novelties for me in the organization of this school in Vietnam.

Was it difficult to organise this CIMPA Research School at the ICISE conference center?

developing science southeast Asia
Prof. Thierry Masson

The first difficulty for me was to find scientific contacts. Developing science in Southeast Asia seemed difficult to me at first: then I was helped by an Australian colleague (who was visiting us at Marseille at that time) at the very beginning of the organization. The second problem concerned some logistical aspects. I helped Roland Triay to organize some conferences and workshops at the ICISE conference center (HTGRG2, CosFlo16, HTGRG3) taking care of the websites. So, although I had never been there, I knew in part how the ICISE conference center works. Roland Triay, very familiar with the ICISE conference center and the people in charge, was the main co-organizer of our CIMPA school. In this two-headed organization, he took care of the logistics part and I took care of the scientific part.

Which are, in your opinion, the first 3 steps to start developing science in Southeast Asia?

Good question! Firstly, the initial choice of the lecturers, who had to give courses; secondly, the search for fundings; and thirdly, the practical (local) organization. The choice of the lecturers was rather rapid, mainly because of the geographical location of the school: Vietnam is relatively unknown by colleagues in our discipline (Noncommutative Geometry) and this motivated a lot of them to participate. Funding sources were mainly the CIMPA – Centre International de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées, which supported this school because of its geographical location in a developing country, and ICISE. We had very important local financial support, without which we could not succeed. The third step was easier. As Roland Triay knows very well the place, we were able to organize the schedule of the school easily, as well as the related activities. It should be noted that the ICISE conference center was of great help in this part also.

Which is the expected impact in developing science in Southeast Asia, in respect of Noncommutative geomtery?

Our school aims to promote Noncommutative Geometry in Southeast Asia. Many students from this region could attend the School and we think we succeeded in getting them interested in this research topic. We chose to talk about Noncommutative Geometry both as a subject of research in mathematics and in physics. Thus, we sensitized these young (future) researchers to the different stakes of this research. I can not yet judge the impact of this school on my personal research. In the years to come, it is likely that some of these students will contact me for collaborations.

How was your personal experience of Vietnam, Quy Nhon city and the ICISE conference center?

I was delighted with this stay in Vietnam, and I think  Quy Nhon city has largely contributed to making this stay enjoyable and memorable. It is not (yet) a tourist city, and it is pleasant to immerse oneself in it. Vietnamese people are very hospitable and very convivial. During our stay, the local officials greeted us with great enthusiasm. The ICISE conference center also contributed greatly to the quality of the stay, offering a relaxing setting, almost in the middle of nature. I could manage the School without having to worry about logistic issues, since the ICSE conference center takes care of everything: transport, food, management of facilities… It is an ideal environment to focus on science.