Scholars Share Research at Interdisciplinary Colloquium

professor standing at the front of the room
Dec 9 2022

NYU Shanghai’s very first Interdisciplinary Colloquium, held on December 2, offered students and faculty an opportunity to learn and engage with each other’s research. Presenters shared their research in the fields of mathematics, physics and social sciences. Professor of Physics and Mathematics Jun Zhang, introduced keynote speaker Professor Shi Jin. Shi Jin is the director of the Institute of Natural Sciences at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) and Chair Professor of Mathematics. He also serves as a co-director of the Shanghai National Center for Applied Mathematics and is the director of the Ministry of Education Key Laboratory on Scientific and Engineering Computing.

Professor Jun Zhang standing at the front of the room

Professor Jun Zhang

Professor Jin spoke to the audience about his research in physics, starting with Newton’s second law and expanding to include physical phenomena of many scales, from microscopic atoms to macroscopic bird swarms. He introduced physics applications not only related to interactions between abstract individuals, but also to the flocks of birds and schools of fish. The far-reaching applications he introduced even covered opinions formed by individuals who interact with each other.

Professor Jin explained that his research had been inspired by the stochastic gradient descent algorithm in machine learning. Jin and his team developed an algorithm to facilitate the simulation of interaction between a large number of particles. They developed a random batch method to reduce the complexity of the algorithm. Jin’s talk made his research accessible to students from a wide range of research fields. Neuroscience PhD student Gu Jintao said he was impressed by the interdisciplinary applications of Jin’s research. “Mathematics/physics give back to machine learning by using swarm computing to solve the local minimum problem in machine learning,” he said. “It was inspiring to know that one's research interest can be connected to so many different topics based on a very basic principle.” 



Audience members sitting and listening to the presentations

Audience members 

First-year TESOL student Dong Menglu said she attended the colloquium to support her work as a student academic counselor at a bilingual high school, working with students who are preparing to apply to university.  “STEM and interdisciplinary education are the mainstream trend for higher education, '' she said. “By attending the interdisciplinary colloquium, I can give more professional help across majors to my students.” 

This was NYU Shanghai’s first interdisciplinary colloquium, which will become a regular event in the following semesters. More than forty undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty from all three NYU campuses joined in person and online. The colloquium was sponsored by the NYU Shanghai Interdisciplinary Colloquium Organizing Committee, which includes faculty, postdocs, NYU Shanghai PhD students, Office of Graduate and Advanced Education, and Office of Research.