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Moon Duchin – Tufts University

Tuesday, May 23, 2023 at 3:30pm

Kent Chemical Laboratory, Room 120 (New Room)

Title: A spanning tree goes to court

Abstract:   In this talk, I will tell the intertwined story of a graph algorithm and a legal application.

In voting rights law, it has become important to be able to sample a large variety of redistricting plans (or weight-balanced partitions of a graph into connected pieces) with some control over how they are distributed.  Spanning tree methods are fast and effective, and are now in wide use.  This has provided breakthroughs in the centuries-old question of how to spot a gerrymander.  I’ll tell you some current events in this story, including a big Supreme Court case pending right now—and perhaps surprisingly, give applications from the legal side back to fundamental questions in graph theory.

Bio:  Moon Duchin is a Professor of Mathematics and Senior Fellow in the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, where she runs the MGGG Redistricting Lab.  Her areas of mathematical expertise are in groups, geometry, and discrete dynamical systems.  Her lab has developed mathematical modeling techniques with applications to democracy and civil rights, especially a Markov chain method for the study of redistricting.  Moon has served as an expert in state and federal courts in Pennsylvania,
North Carolina, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Texas, Georgia, and this season’s blockbuster voting rights case in Alabama.  Courts have recognized her as an expert in cartography, demography, applied mathematics, mathematical modeling, graph algorithms, redistricting, and the history and structure
of census data.

Duchin received her PhD in Mathematics from the University of Chicago in 2005, advised by Alex Eskin.  She has held an NSF CAREER grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, and was elected a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2017.  In Fall 2023 she will be the Sloan Professor at the MSRI program on Algorithms, Fairness, and Equity.