Birman to deliver Sampson Lecture at Bates

Joan Birman, professor of mathematics at Columbia University, will discuss Knots in Mathematics at 7:30 p.m. March 16 in the Edmund S. Muskie Archives, 70 Campus Ave. The public is invited to attend the annual Richard W. Sampson Lecture, and admission is free. Refreshments will be served following the lecture.

Mathematicians regard knots as being tied in circular strings. In topology, a subspecialty within mathematics, the interest is in distinguishing one knot from another and finding a way to guarantee that a knot’s ends cannot be pushed through. Birman’s talk will focus on how mathematicians distinguish knots and the practical applications of knot polynomials.

Birman’s mathematical work has focused on low-dimensional topology: braids, knots surface mappings and three-manifolds. She is the author of Braids, Links and Mapping Class Groups.

The annual Sampson Lecture at Bates is named in honor of Richard W. Sampson of Lewiston, a member of the Bates faculty from 1952 until his retirement as professor of mathematics in 1990.