Achievement unlocked: I started a conference series!

In 2012, with the help of colleagues in the Graphs at Ryerson Research group, we held the first Graph Searching in Canada (or GRASCan) conference at Ryerson University. The motivation behind the meeting was to bring together researchers working in the field of graph searching, giving them an opportunity to disseminate their work and collaborate.

Conference photo from GRASCan’12. My, how time flies.

Graph searching deals with the analysis of games and graph processes that model some form of intrusion in a network, and efforts to eliminate, slow, or contain that intrusion. A well-studied game is Cops and Robbers, where a robber is loose on the network, and a set of cops attempts to capture the robber. How the players move and the rules of capture depend on which variant is studied. Other topics in graph searching are firefighting, graph cleaning, edge searching, eternal domination, and graph burning.  Graph searching attracts pure mathematicians but also computer scientists working on graph algorithms, robotics, or mobile computing.

What is GRASCan?

GRASCan is a smaller, invite-only conference. That may sound exclusive, but it’s actually entirely inclusive. Anyone with a research interest in graph searching can attend. Past experience in the topic is a bonus but not a requirement. While I have a pool of colleagues that I invite each year, I’m happy to welcome any interested researcher.

Canada punches above its weight when it comes to research on graph searching. Many Canadian and American colleagues have attended the conferences. One of the best parts of GRASCan is its open-ended structure. Contributed lectures and plenary talks are scheduled in the morning and the afternoons are reserved for spontaneous collaborative work. We have lunch at the conference, so attendees stay close.

While I love the talks at GRASCan, for me, the magic happens in the afternoon research sessions. When lunch finishes, people organize organically into smaller groups and start chatting about problems on the board or on pads of paper. All kinds of unexpected synergies happen, and these discussions might continue to dinner and beyond.  Work I began at GRASCan led to articles and new research collaborations, and I know this is the case for many other participants.

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Karen Gunderson (University of Manitoba) and Stephen Finbow (St. Francis Xavier University) brainstorm at GRASCan’18.

The Prairies this year, then…?

The first two GRASCan conferences were at Ryerson University, with subsequent conferences in Montreal, Florida, Halifax, and Corner Brook, Newfoundland. This summer, we had the first GRASCan west of Ontario at the University of Regina. Boting Yang and Shaun Fallat did an excellent job organizing the workshop this year.

GRASCan’18 at The University of Regina. Yes, that is Richard Nowakowski front row center.

What’s next for GRASCan?

Graph searching is an active topic in discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science; I see new papers coming out on arXiv daily. It makes sense to keep the conference going as long as there is interest. Next year, the plan is to have GRASCan return to Toronto, and there are plans in the future to hold it in Charlottetown, P.E.I. and even New York City (thanks to my American colleague Kerry Ojakian).

If you are interested in graph searching, then please join us.

Anthony Bonato

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