PhD Studentship in Extremal Combinatorics at Warwick

One 3.5-year PhD studentship is available in connection with the ERC grant "Extremal Combinatorics" at the University of Warwick. The starting date is 1st October 2014 (but an earlier starting date should also be possible).

What is Extremal Combinatorics?

A typical problem of Extremal Combinatorics is to maximise or minimise a certain parameter given some combinatorial restrictions. The structures that we consider are usually graphs and set systems but they may also be, for example, sets of integers or faces of a polytope. This area experienced a remarkable growth in the last few decades, having a wide range of applications (in number theory, algebra, geometry, logic, information theory, theoretical computer science, etc).

A very recent and actively developing area is graph limits. Roughly, the idea here is to approximate a large graph G by some object W. Now we can deal with W alone (in some sense, we take the "limit" as the number of vertices of G tends to infinity). Remarkably, the set of possible "graph limits" W can be described in many ways: using two-variable measurable functions, random infinite graphs and so-called flag algebras. This gives a general way to apply tools from analysis, ergodic theory and semi-definite programming to finite graphs.

Combinatorics at Warwick

The Warwick Mathematics Institute has an increasing number of people who directly work in combinatorics (our current staff members include Endre Csoka, Jan Foniok, Agelos Georgakopoulos, Jan Hladky, Dan Kral', Anita Liebenau, Vadim Lozin, Andras Mathe, and Oleg Pikhurko) as well as a number of research groups in related areas (statistical mechanics, tropical geometry, probability, etc). We have the Combinatorics Seminar and the (general) Mathematics Colloquium.

Additionally, the Centre for Discrete Mathematics and its Applications (DIMAP) promotes multidisciplinary research spanning three departments (Business School, Computer Science and Mathematics). The centre has many affiliated researchers and runs the DIMAP seminar.

Studentship Particulars

The studentship will pay a competitive stipend for 3.5 years (subject to candidate's making good progress and meeting some standard requirements). It also covers all tuition fees at the UK/EU level and provides 1500 Euro per year for research-related travel.

Important: If you are not a EU citizen, you would need to find extra funding that covers the difference between the overseas and EU rates (which is around 14,000 GBP per year). This difference may be covevered by a Chancellor's International Scholarship (whose deadline is 13 January 2014).

I will be looking for candidates that have an interest in combinatorics and graph theory. While a previous knowledge and close familiarity with these areas will be an advantage, it is not required. Rather, I will be looking for your depth of knowledge, willingness to learn new areas and your general potential as a successful researcher. One aspect of this broad project is to apply tools from analysis, algebra, convex optimisation and probability theory to problems of discrete mathematics; candidates with a strong background in one of these areas are also encouraged to apply.

Another direction of the project is to generate mathematical proofs by computer within the framework of flag algebras. Although there are a number of freely available software packages for this, a new problem often requires quite extensive coding. If you are interested in this direction, please make sure to state this and describe your previous programming experience in detail in your application.

How to Apply

You have to apply via the central university system ( Keep the following in mind:

  • I anticipate that the decisions will be made in early March 2014, so make sure that your applications is complete (including reference letters) before 28 February 2014.
  • If you are based in the UK, it is strongly recommended that you visit Warwick's Math Institute on one of its open days (27 November 2013 and 5 February 2014).
  • A research statement is an important part of your application. Please describe what you would like to work on during your PhD, which open problems you consider important and why, your previous research experience, etc
  • Enquiries

    I will be happy to answer informal enquiries (those that cannot be answered by the Postgraduate Admissions Team).

    Thank you!

    Oleg Pikhurko
    Email: O dot Pikhurko at warwick dot ac dot uk