Robin Thomas Awarded Coveted SIAM Fellowship
Prof Robin Thomas has long been an exemplary example for research excellence and dedication to mentoring PhD students and postdocs. Robin is a world leader in graph theory and has published over 100 research papers appearing in top journals (including the Annals of Mathematics and the Journal of the AMS). His extraordinary research record includes a number of major results any one of which would be considered as a lifetime highlight. Robin was awarded the prestigious Fulkerson prize twice and the Neuron Award for Lifetime Achievement in Mathematics (Czech Republic).
Among Robin's many notable achievements, perhaps none is more astounding than his work on the Four Color Theorem. The Four Color Theorem (4CT) was first proved in 1976 by Appel and Haken, using a computer. However, this computer proof cannot be verified by hand, and even the part that is supposedly hand-checkable is complicated/tedious. To dispel doubts about the Appel-Haken proof, Robin, along with Robertson, Sanders, and Seymour, published a new and much simpler proof in 1997.
As a possible generalization of the Four Color Conjecture (now a theorem), Hadwiger conjectured in 1943 that every graph with no K t+1-minor is t-colorable. It is easy to prove the Hadwiger conjecture for t≤3, but the case t=4 is difficult and equivalent to 4CT. In 1993, Robin, along with Roberston and Seymour, proved that the case t=5 can be reduced to the 4CT, by showing that a smallest counterexample to the Hadwiger conjecture for t=5 must be an apex graph. The proof is a tour de force, which is computer-free. This work was awarded the Fulkerson prize.
Robin was again awarded the Fulkerson prize for his work on the proof of Berge's conjecture, which consumes 179 pages in the Annals of Mathematics.
Additionally, Robin, again with Robertson and Seymour, characterized those bipartite graphs with Pfaffian orientations, hence, solving many problems of interest, such as a permanent problem of Polya, the even directed cycle problem, and the sign-nonsingular matrix problem for square matrices.
Prof Prasad Tetali, former interim chair of the SoM, had this to say about Robin:
Robin has a remarkable record as a teacher and a mentor. His tireless efforts to challenge and encourage young talents at critical early stages of their careers has had a profound impact on the lives of a large number of PhD students and postdocs.
PhD Students and Postdocs of Robin Thomas include:
- Zdenek Dvorak (Charles University, Czech),
- Bertrand Guenin (University of Waterloo, Canada),
- Daniel Kral (University of Warwick, UK),
- Chun-Hung Liu (Princeton University),
- Sergey Norine (McGill University, Canada),
- Dhruv Mubayi (University of Illinois at Chicago),
- Sang-il Oum (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology),
- Luke Postle (University of Waterloo, Canada), and
- Xingxing Yu (Georgia Institute of Technology).
See also the CoS story here:
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