ISIMA 2014 Toronto

Lonely moose guarding the gate of the University of Toronto

I spent all of August in beautiful Canada at the University of Toronto for the International Summer Institute for Modeling in Astrophysics (ISIMA)

Trinity College

ISIMA is organized by the Theoretical Astronomy and Astrophysics department of UC Santa Cruz. It takes place on a regular basis every few years, and was this time hosted by the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) at the University of Toronto.

View from the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA)

The University of Toronto was Canada’s first university and was founded in 1827. I literally didn’t expect anything of this place, so I was more than pleased to find a beautiful university in the heart of this fascinating city! Both university and city made this year’s edition of ISIMA a fun adventure.

View from CITA on downtown Toronto

Each ISIMA has a different modeling theme, and this year’s topic was gravitational dynamics. Chair of the summer institute was Pascale Garaud, professor in applied mathematics at UCSC.

Interesting architecture of the University of Toronto

The first week of the six-week program she laid out more like a conference. In the morning we heard lectures, and in the afternoon we had talk sessions.

Interesting architecture of the Royal Ontario Museum

Pascale organized four renown senior lecturers, Scott Tremaine, Douglas Heggie, Doug Lin, and David Merritt, who all gave great introductions to several aspects of gravitational dynamics.

Random downtown building

Less senior people like me, and many other of my gravity friends (yes, we’re gravity friends), were given the opportunity to present their current research and advertise our student projects, which we had to design before coming to Toronto.

Downtown Toronto

The main purpose of ISIMA is bringing  students and advanced researchers from all over the world together to do research together on new and interesting projects. 15 grad students attended the summer institute, and within the first week they had to chose a project with one of the postdocs, junior or senior faculty. For the rest of the six-week program, they then worked on these projects and in the last week presented their results. Many of the projects were designed such that they could be finished within the 5 weeks. Some may need some more work back home, but all of them may end up in actual publications! A win-win for all participants.

The waterfront

Fortunately, it was not just all about work. It was summer at last, and Toronto turned out to be absolutely amazing. I shared an apartment with Shangfei Liu, Mark Gieles and Florent Renaud. Our neighbors within the student dorm were Pascale, Sukanya Chakrabarti, Allice Quillen, Elena d’Onghia and Anna-Lisa Varri.

Kensington Market: alternative/hipster/hippie part of town right next to the University

We went out together, had potluck dinners in the dorm, or joined the students on a few of their numerous excursions to the fun parts of town.

Colorful Kensington Market

Most of these excursions went to Kensington Market, a colorful neighborhood right next to the University of Toronto.

Everything is artsy in Kensington
And political/critical
Chinatown is right next door

One group excursion took us to Niagara Falls, which is about 1 hour drive from Toronto – or 4 hours if you stop at the flower clock, the ice-wine winery, Niagara by the Lake, the hydroelectric and the cable car. We even did the Maid of the Mist tour.

Niagara Falls

Anyways, it was great fun, and we all enjoyed the splendid summer weather. Toronto has presented itself as a gloriously open-minded city full of people from all over the world, with lots of recreational possibilities, tons of shopping opportunities, and a kick-ass restaurant & coffee scene.

Toronto, not only multicultural, but also super LBGTx friendly
It’s a life. Working on a Sunday afternoon in Toronto

I mainly focused on Toronto’s coffee, food and park infrastructure, which I thoroughly explored with the help of bike sharing and my best friend yelp.

It’s a life. Shopping on a Sunday afternoon in Toronto
Random encounter with weird looking Canadian
Boat trip with Florent & sunset over the Toronto skyline

Towards the end of our stay, Florent and I were bold enough to go for a dinner in the 360 Restaurant on top of the CN tower. We were absolutely stoked by the food, the wine and the view from the rotating restaurant 351 m (1150 ft) above the ground!

Symbol of Toronto’s virility, CN Tower
…where they actually serve most delicious food!
…with a view (and a prize)!
Boston Red Sox visiting (and winning)
ISIMA people standing in line for ramen!

Before heading out, Pascale and I initiated a trip to Toronto’s best ramen place: Sansotei Ramen. Look at us, casually standing in line like some New York hipsters waiting for a Ramen Burger at Smorgasburg. It’s been said that Toronto is New York in the movies – not just there, I’d say, also in our hearts. It’s been a great ISIMA 2014. I’d do it again, anytime.


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