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Kharkov  (Ukraine), June 2-5, 1998

by Richard L. Dowden and Craig J. Rodger

University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

(from IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, V.40, N 4, August 1998, pp. 61-64)

"Going Global" was easily observed as MMET*98 participants from 22 countries participated in a photo in front of the Kharkov State University (KSU).
June 2-5, 1998, the VII International Conference on Mathematical Methods in Electromagnethic Theory (MMET*98) was held at Kharkov State University, Ukraine. The meeting attracted several hundred participants from as far afield as New Zealand. Of the 272 papers presented at MMET*98, 235 were from the former USSR (FSU), including a significant number with western co-authors. The official and working language of the meeting was English, and the majority of the presentations were of a very high standard. 
"Oh! This is a point!" Oleg Tretyakov (KSU) explains to Paul Smith (University of Dundee) the details of the evolutionary-basis approach in time domain electromagnetics, developed by him
Some Western participants, travelling to meetings in the Former USSR, might be concerned with difficulties associated with immigration and customs. Compared with arriving in the USA or New Zealand (or almost anywhere else!), the entry formalities for Ukraine were trivial. An entry visa was required for most Westerns, but this was extremely easy to obtain with your letter of invitation from the conference (provided when you registered). When you arrive in the Ukraine (Kiev, in our case), you don't have to fill in any forms at if you are carrying less than US$1,000 (which is much more than you need anyway). You just sail through with your passport. Even for a Kiwi entering Australian, or an Australian entering New Zealand, more than that is involved. Currency exchange in either direction is available near wherever you are likely to be. The exchange rate is realistic and floating, so there is no black market. prices are very low, and nowhere did we feel "ripped off." 
The student paper award is handed to Fatih Dikmen (Gebze Institute of Technology) by the MMET*98 Technical Program Committee co- Chairman Alexander Nosich.
The conference organizers also made sure that all the Western visitors were met at the airport: we chose to take the overnight train from Kiev to Kharkov (an experience in itself), and were accompanied by an English-speaking scientist from Kiev. It is quite easy to learn to transliterate Cyrillic, which reveals that many important words, like "restoran" for dining-in ("PECTOPAH" in Cyrillic), and "striptiz" for entertainment, are recognizable to English speakers. Londoners will find that all of the railway stations in Ukraine (Russia, too) are called 'Vauxhall."

Both plenary and technical sessions were scheduled, with the sessions consisting of 45-minute invited papers from international experts in their fields. The generous time allowed for the individual plenary papers lead to presentations that were extremely informative to individuals outside the specialized fields, as well as providing a comfortable working environment. Many of the presentations stimulated wide-ranging questions. Technical-session presentations were 20 minutes long. 

"Ionospherics" are holding Richard Dowden  (University of Otago, Dunedin), Alexander Mazmanishvili, and Alexey Galuza (Kharkov Polytechnical University). even at the barbeque party
A special feature of MMET*98 was the submission of three or four-page conference papers, in place of abstracts. The speed at which the Organizing Committee got things done was amazing. Despite the short deadline of only two months, the conference proceedings (two volumes, adding up to 935 pages of A4 paper) were available at registration the day before the conference began. Photographs taken during the formal session, and the social functions, were available to purchase the next day. At the closing ceremony, on Friday afternoon, prizes were presented for the best student papers. Each prize was (in addition to a bottle of champagne) a certificate inscribed with the recipient's name and other details, such as the title and co-authors of the paper that earned the prize. The judging and the inscribing of the certificates must have been done during the Friday lunch break, since the prize-winning papers included some presented on Friday morning. On top of all this, the members of the Organizing Committee were always ready to leap in and help participants in any way they could. these young people provided a great example as to how cheerful, helpful, and focused work could produce an excellent conference. 
The conference banquet dance.
The technical sessions at MMET*98 covered a wide range of areas: Inverse and Synthesis Problems, Gratings and Frequency Selective Surfaces, Electromagnetic Theory, Ionospheric Electromagnetics, Time-Domain Electromagnetics, Waveguide Circuits, Signal Processing, Scattering and Radar Cross Section, Antennas and Arrays, Computational Techniques, Complex Media, Analytical Regularizations, Open Waveguides, Eigenvalue Problems, Random Media and Rough Surfaces and Fibre-Optics and Lasers. Several of these sessions appeared for the first time at an MMET meeting, due to demand from participants. 
A short rest is taken by Kazuo Tanaka (Gifu University) as he enjoys dance watching.
MMET*98 provided an excellent opportunity to meet researches from the FSU. Of particular importance was the provision for student travel awards, to encourage bright upcoming scientists to attend. The scientific part of MMET*98 ended at the closing ceremony, on Friday afternoon. In addition to the prizes mentioned above, there were prizes for the FSU and "Western" participants who had traveled the longest distances to attend. The FSU prize went to a researcher who had come six days by train from Ulan-Ude in east Siberia. The "Western" prize went to a sough-easterner from New Zealand. 
Talking about the waves was a favorite topic at MMET*98 except for the banquet, as in this photo of Dennis Nyquist (Michigan State University, East Lansing)
The Social Program was also special. In particular, the conference banquet was a traditional Ukrainian affair: traditional food, drink, and dancing (shy people like us were surprised and delighted to be invited to dance by very attractive female students!). Popular with all conference participants, the banquet was unlike the traditional staid affairs one often finds. The welcoming party at the end of the first day offered an excellent "ice-breaker". There were also tours of Kharkov city, and the surrounding countryside. On one evening, there was a presentation of the Decameron tales, partly by narration, partly by masked mime, partly by puppets. The day after the conference, the organizers ran a relaxing barbecue (actually shashliks-a much better way of charcoal grilling) in a park near the city. There were even horses provided for the daring to ride.

We would like to thank the Organizing Committee of MMET*98 for creating such an excellent meeting. The quality of the science, the contacts, and the social life were extremely high. We hope you can get a better feel for what we experienced from the photographs included here. We can recommend the next MMET (in 2000) to all researches without hesitation.

Talking about the waves was a favorite topic at MMET*98 except for the banquet, as in this photo of Craig Rodger (British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge). and Sergei Shipilov, Evgeniy Ovcharenko (both Tomsk State University), and S. Ivanov (Lavochkin Aerospace Co., Moscow). 
A Europe versus Asia football game at the barbecue party was as exciting as the forthcoming World Cup. In the front line: Sergei Sukhinin (Institute of Hydrodynamics RAS, Novosibirsk), Eldar Veliev, (IRE NAS, Kharkov), Igor Meglinsky (Saratov State University), and Konstantin Virnik (KSU).
"Who will write for the AP Magazine?" is discussed by two Associate Editors: Richard Dowden and Fred Gardiol.
Craig Rodger (BAS, Cambridge) and Natalia Bliznyuk (IRE NASU, Kharkov). 
Internationalization in action at the post-conference barbecue party: (l-r) K. Virnil (KSU), R, Zentner (Zagreb University), K. Yemelyanov (KSU), M. Gilman (Institute of Problems of Mechanics RAS, Moscow), F. Dikmen (Gebze Institute of Technology), V. Podlozny (KSU), N. Engheta (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia), M. Lenoir, and K. Ramdani (both ENSTA, Paris)
Horseback riding was not a planned activity at MMET*98, but Rado looks like a trained horseman
Distant Horizons from the top of Holy Hill cliff: (l-r):