UNCA to host mathematician Moon Duchin in gerrymandering webinar Oct. 15

Press release from UNC Asheville:

Moon Duchin, the mathematician called upon by Pennsylvania’s governor to aid in drawing up nonpartisan Congressional district maps, will share how she uses mathematical modelling to assess the fairness of district lines when she delivers UNC Asheville’s 2020 Parsons Lecture via Zoom, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15. This webinar, titled Gerrymandering, Mathematics and Fairness, is free and open to everyone. Preregistration is required at https://math.unca.edu/learn/parsons-lecture/

Duchin, associate professor of mathematics at Tufts University, is director of Tufts’ interdisciplinary Science, Technology, and Society program, and leads the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group together with a colleague at MIT. The group seeks “to study applications of geometry and computing to U.S. redistricting,” according to its website. “We believe that gerrymandering of all kinds is a fundamental threat to our democracy.” 

She also has spearheaded the creation of intensive training sessions in five different states, including North Carolina, to help more mathematicians learn techniques of district-map analysis so they can serve as expert witnesses in the many legal challenges to the maps. “Changes to voting rules that used to be considered by courts before they could be implemented, are now implemented first and the courts consider them after the fact,” said Duchin in an interview with the The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Duchin says she champions “the use of algorithmic sampling methods to explore the space of possible districting plans. It’s a truly nonpartisan way to put limits on the power of the line-drawers to tilt maps in any particular direction.” Her mathematical subfields are geometry, topology, group theory, and dynamical systems. Her current research focus is in the study of electoral redistricting in the U.S., using Markov chain Monte Carlo and other randomized algorithms to understand relationships between community, partisanship, race, and representation.

The Parsons Lecture was originally scheduled for last spring as an in-person event and was rescheduled and moved online due to COVID-19. For more information, contact UNC Asheville Chair and Professor of Mathematics Samuel Kaplan, at skaplan@unca.edu.

About UNC Asheville’s Annual Parsons Lecture

The goal of the Parsons Lecture is to provide the greater Asheville community with the ability to attend locally a presentation by a nationally renowned mathematician speaking on a topic accessible to the general audience. Speakers for the lecture series are invited to present a lecture not just because of their renown as mathematicians, but also for their skills as educators and orators. Funds for the series are provided by an endowment, donated in 1998 by an anonymous alumnus, in honor of Joe Parsons, UNC Asheville’s first professor and chair of mathematics, who also helped plan the physical layout of the university’s campus, including the decision to have Ramsey Library face Mt. Pisgah, providing a dramatic view from the library steps.

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