All three of us have just returned from the 35th Australasian Conference on Combinatorial Mathematics and Combinatorial Computing, which was held last week at Monash. Peter Cameron’s latest blog post (of the same title of this one) gives his recollections of the week.

Monash is located right in the middle of some rather boring eastern suburbs of Melbourne. There’s nothing much around it in the way of restaurants or night-life, but to compensate for this, the campus itself is well-supplied with a large student centre containing plenty of different eateries and several coffee spots. While the architecture of the buildings is nothing much to write home about, there’s plenty of open space between the buildings that has been landscaped with grassy areas, various ponds and lots of benches under shady trees, so overall the campus has a very nice feel.

The conference itself went very smoothly, for which credit must be given to Ian Wanless and his co-organisers and the various students who fetched and carried and laid out the teas etc. Peter Cameron nominated Petr Vojtěchovský’s talk on loops as the best plenary talk, but I thought there were three plenary talks that stood out from the crowd – Petr’s talk on loops, Peter Cameron’s on the synchronization project and David Wood’s more expository talk on the Graph Minor theorem. All three were beautifully presented, interesting, and accessible to an audience with a range of research interests. It’s harder to be definitive about the contributed talks because with parallel sessions all week nobody can attend more than half of them. But a few stick in my mind, including Michael’s beautifully presented talk about our work on the symmetries of generalized quadrangles and several of the matroid talks. I also very much enjoyed a talk by one of the Japanese mathematicians, and although I don’t like laughing at imperfect English in a mean-spirited way, I had to have a friendly chuckle when he attributed a classical result to that well-known prolific Japanese mathematician “* Folkrore*“. On a different tack, the “biggest vertices” prize went to Zoe Bukovac who drew a 4-cycle with such enormous vertices that the diagram occupied fully three-quarters of a Beamer slide.

The Wellington contingent came in force and as a result there were nine talks specifically about matroids, which is surely a record for an ACCMCC. I am obviously biased, but the matroid talks seemed to me to be of a particularly high standard. The only downside of the Wellington contingent being out in force was that I joined them at the conference banquet (at Bokchoy Tang in Federation Square) to the detriment of my liver and my head the next morning. When our wine ran out, Geoff “*Fagin*” Whittle sent out his grad students, in true Oliver Twist fashion, to beg, borrow or steal surplus wine from other tables, thus contributing to my slight overindulgence.

I talked about the problem of finding the set of excluded minors for the minor-closed class of graphs with the property “*every simple minor has a vertex of degree at most 4*“, and a possible extension of this result to binary matroids. The slides for my talk can be found here (Monash2011). I was probably overambitious given that 20 minutes is a very short time, so I felt rather rushed while giving it. I quite like the problem though, so I’ll probably write more about it in a separate post.

Next year the conference is at UNSW and then the following year here at UWA, so we’re starting to gather ideas on what works well and what can be improved from this and other conferences we go to.

Apart from the fact that I did think Petr’s talk the best plenary, I wasn’t trying to pick out the best talks, but those from which I learned something new. Since I had heard Paul Seymour, Bruce Reed, and Geoff Whittle talking about graph minors, there wasn’t so much new for me in David Wood’s talk, but I do agree with you that it was an outstanding performance.

There were also many excellent contributed talks which I didn’t mention for the same reason (including, it heed hardly be said, all the SymOmega team!)

I slightly regret that we didn’t take the opportunity of getting a photograph of CameronCounts and SymOmega together…

One thing I forgot to mention is that Peter daringly used a serif font for his talk… all the accessibility “experts” must be shaking their heads. (Actually, I also, and independently, used a serif font for my talk.)