Pacific Northwest Probability Seminar

The Twenty Second Northwest Probability Seminar
October 22, 2022
Supported by the University of Oregon, Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS), Baidu, University of Washington (Friends of Mathematics Fund), and Milliman Fund.

The Birnbaum Lecture in Probability will be delivered by Scott Sheffield (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in 2022.

Northwest Probability Seminars are mini-conferences held at the University of Washington and organized in collaboration with the Oregon State University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon. There is no registration fee.

The Scientific Committee for the NW Probability Seminar 2022 consists of Omer Angel (U British Columbia), Chris Burdzy (U Washington), Zhenqing Chen (U Washington), Yevgeniy Kovchegov (Oregon State U) and David Levin (U Oregon).


Hotels near the University of Washington.

The talks will take place in Mary Gates Hall 241 (see the map).

Parking on UW campus is free on Saturdays only after noon. See parking information.


  • 10:00 - 11:00 Coffee Mary Gates Commons
  • 11:00 - 11:50 Andrea Ottolini, University of Washington
      Guessing cards and a variant of the birthday problem
      Consider the following game: Alice shuffles together m identical decks of cards, each consisting of n distinct types. At each step, Bob tries to guess the type of card that sits on the top of the deck, and then Alice shows it to him and removes it from the deck. The game continues this way until there are no cards left, and it is referred to as the complete feedback game since Bob is aware of the composition of the leftover cards in the deck at each step. If his goal is to maximize/minimize (in expectation) the number of correct guesses, how well can he perform? In joint work with Jimmy He, we give sharp asymptotic for fixed m and large n that improve results from Diaconis, Graham, He and Spiro. The main ingredient is a careful analysis of a variant of the birthday problem for sampling without replacement.
  • 12:00 - 12:50 Axel Saenz Rodriguez, Oregon State University
      Fredholm determinant for the inhomogeneous TASEP
      The totally asymmetric simple exclusion process (TASEP) is a collection of random walkers with interactions so that particles never occupy the same site at the same time. This process was introduced in the late 60’s, in biology, by C.T. MacDonald, J.H. Gibbs, and A.C. Pipkin and, in math by, F. Spritzer. Recently, there has been some progress in accessing the asymptotic statistics of the TASEP via Fredholm determinant formulas. In this talk, I discuss joint work with Elia Bisi (TU Wien), Yuchen Liao (Warwick) and Nikos Zygouras (Warwick) where we obtain a random walk Fredholm determinant for the multi-point function of the TASEP under general initial conditions and inhomogeneous particle speeds.
  • 1:00 - 3:00 Lunch, catered, Mary Gates Commons
  • 3:00 - 3:50 Scott Sheffield, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
      "Birnbaum Lecture": Yang-Mills and surface sums in two dimensions
      Although lattice Yang-Mills theory is easy to rigorously define, the construction of a satisfactory continuum theory is a major open problem in dimension $d \geq 3$. Such a theory should assign a Wilson loop expectation to each suitable collection $L$ of loops in $d$-dimensional space. One classical approach is to try to represent this expectation as a sum over surfaces having L as their boundaries. There are some formal/heuristic ways to make sense of this notion, but they typically yield an ill-defined difference of infinities.
      I will introduce the subject and show how to make sense of Yang-Mills integrals as surface sums for $d=2$, where the continuum theory is already understood. This perspective leads to alternative proofs of the Makeenko-Migdal equation and the Gross-Taylor expansion. The presentation is based on a joint work with Minjae Park (Chicago), Joshua Pfeffer (Columbia) and Pu Yu (MIT).
  • 4:00 - 4:30 Coffee Mary Gates Commons
  • 4:30 - 5:20 Jacob Richey, University of British Columbia
      Phase transition for parking with coalescence
      The parking process is an interacting particle system on a graph consisting of random walkers (cars) and stationary obstacles (spots), where cars and spots mutually annihilate on contact. Depending on the initial density of cars, some spots may survive forever. I will mention existing work on this phase transition, and present new results in the setting where cars perform coalescing random walk. Based on joint work in progress with Matt Junge, Hanbaek Lyu and Lily Reeves.
  • 6:00 No-host (likely subsidized) dinner.
    • Restaurant: Mamma Melina. There will be set menu, the second menu on this list. The cost per person will be 38 dollars (this does not include tax and gratuity) although it is likely that the conference will have funds to partly subsidize dinner. Please bring cash. There will be a vegetarian option. Wine and coffee can be ordered and paid for individually (cash only; alcohol will not be subsidized). Address: 5101 25th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105. See Google map. The restaurant is a 20 minute walk from Mary Gates Hall.