February Seminar

Speaker: Dr. Kieka Mynhardt

Title: The Hunting of the Snark

Abstract: “The Hunting of the Snark” is a poem by Lewis Carroll. A crew of ten on a sailboat try to hunt the Snark, a creature which may turn out to be a dangerous Boojum. The only crewmember to find the Snark vanishes, which means that the Snark was indeed a Boojum. Graph theorists also hunt Snarks, but our Snarks are not dangerous and, although it took a while to find them, we now know that there are infinitely many Snarks. A graph (or network) consists of vertices (think “dots” or “small discs”) connected by edges (think “lines”).  We want to colour the edges of a graph in such a way that all the edges that meet at any given vertex have different colours, and we aim to use as few colours as possible. A Snark is a graph in which, among other things, exactly three edges meet at any vertex, but the edges cannot be coloured as described above using only three colours. In this talk, I will explain precisely what a Snark is, give examples of some of them, show how to make larger Snarks using smaller ones, and explain why Snarks are important to graph theorists.

Bio: Kieka Mynhardt is a professor of mathematics at UVic. Her research area is graph theory. She specializes in graph protection but is also interested in graph colourings. She was born in Cape Town, South Africa, obtained her PhD from the University of Johannesburg, and worked at the University of South Africa until joining UVic in 2002. Throughout her career she encouraged young women to study math and, especially, to pursue math graduate studies.



Speaker: Dr. Asmita Sodhi

Title: Pentomino Puzzlers

Abstract: A pentomino is a shape made by joining five equal squares side-by-side – think TETRIS, but with five squares instead of four. Together we’ll discover the different possible pentominoes, and explore some games and tiling puzzles that use these shapes.

Bio: Asmita is a math professor at UVic whose main mathematical interests are math education and number theory. She is a displaced East Coaster and obtained her PhD from Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS in 2020, which was about integer-valued polynomials (polynomials where if you input any integer, you output an integer). After completing her PhD, Asmita taught at Dal for two years before joining UVic. She is also very passionate about math outreach, and is one of the organizers of a monthly online Math Circle with the Julia Robinson Math Festival.