AAMAS Conference in Istanbul

This post is written by Katie, about her experiences during the AAMAS conference in Istanbul.

AAMAS 2015 was held at the Istanbul Congress Center. We stayed a 5 minute walk away at Bunk Taksim in a private 6-bed dorm. Bunk Taksim was fun and nice.

Istanbul Congress Center

I gave an invited talk in the MassiveMAS workshop on Tuesday, and got to talk with my undergraduate advisor Ashwin at the opening reception (we even went to dinner along with Jivko).

On Wednesday, I presented a drop-in competition poster during the three poster sessions. I got generally positive comments, but no real, useful feedback. I also presented a talk in the biologically inspired approaches session on my flocking work.

There were some good talks, and plenty of good networking during the conference. We kept to ourselves outside of the conference though, as there were no real opportunities to hang out with others (and no students we were particularly motivated to hang out with). I suggested to Matt Taylor, one of the AAMAS board members, that AAMAS hold social events (for students or for all). Especially since many students are the only student from their school, this would really help facilitate networking. Matt is going to recommend it for 2016, and nominate me as one of the social committee chairs.

We did hang out with Matt Taylor and Pablo, a student visiting Matt’s lab, on Friday after the community meeting. We spent the entire afternoon and evening exploring the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul together.

Matt and Pablo met us at the roof top bar at Bunk Taksim. We left rather quickly to go see Hagia Sophia. I considered waiting outside since I had visited it back in 2011 and in order to save 30L, but eventually decided to stay with the group. Hagia Sophia was undergoing some renovations, but was still pretty amazing. We walked across the park between Hagia Sophia and tried to visit the Blue Mosque. It was closed for prayer though, so we found a nearby restaurant to have some Turkish coffee, cay, and appetizers. I had some water and fries – my usual craving on trips.

LARG in Hagia Sophia
All 7 of us in Hagia Sophia
 Repairs in Hagia Sophia
 Me in front of the Blue Mosque
 Blue Mosque (and the fountain between it and Hagia Sophia)

After the snack, we visited the now-open Blue Mosque. The line was substantially longer than it had been on JT and my early visits, but we entered the mosque after queueing for about 30 minutes. The guys – especially Elad and Jake – found my head scarf humorous. They all seemed surprised that I had brought my own. We stayed at the mosque for a relatively short time. I found the architecture and culture interesting, but the mosque seemed to make most of the group uncomfortable. As I stood in the mosque, I could not help but consider how my thoughts in the mosque have changed since my first visit in 2011. I still find it strange that women are limited to praying in caged, small areas at the back of the mosque. But I have a much better understanding and respect of the dress and culture. Knowledge and travel really do facilitate understanding and respect – if you travel and explore in thoughtful ways.

Ceiling in the Blue Mosque
 Walls in the Blue Mosque

After leaving the Blue Mosque, we took the tramvey and funicular back to Taksim and went to a restaurant Piyush had found. It was pretty good, although there were a few really hard pieces. I think I might have damaged a tooth or a filling on one of the hard pieces – I hope to wait until I get back to Austin to get it looked at (follow-up: my tooth seems fine, although I’ll get it checked out during my next regular dentist appointment).

After dinner, we headed back to Bunk Taksim to chill on the roof top. It really is a great place to relax and chill.


Bunk Taksim has been great, and everyone in my group agreed. Jake said the rooftop made his trip.

Elad fell victim to the shoe shine scam (I knew about it, but was not with him). Although scams are mentioned in the guidebooks, I did not think the actually happened all that often. In this case, it was textbook. Elad was walking down the street and a shoe shine guy dropped something in from of him. Elad gave it back to the man, and the man insistently offered him a free shoe shine. Elad eventually accepted. Apparently the chemicals wet his socks and burned his feet. Elad tried to get the guy to stop, but to no avail. Once the guy did stop, he demanded 40L. Elad argued, but eventually paid it.

On Tuesday, we went to lunch with a local girl as part of the doctoral consortium. I assumed she would take us to a good but reasonably priced Turkish restaurant since she knew we are students. But instead she took us to a restaurant, told us she had already ordered for us, and then went elsewhere to eat! I should have asked about the price, but I had faith in the girl that brought us to the restaurant. My faith was clearly poorly placed, as it ended up costing 100L per person!

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