Colin Defant

2018 Hertz Fellow

Colin Defant is a graduate student at Princeton University, where he studies combinatorics and theoretical computer science.

Colin is interested in the combinatorial properties of data types such as trees, stacks, and queues. He is also interested in sequential dynamical systems, which are models of computer simulation that have found applications in traffic simulation and molecular biology and have recently been linked to other areas of algebraic combinatorics.

He graduated from the University of Florida in May of 2017 with a bachelors in mathematics. He has written twenty-seven articles in the areas of number theory and combinatorics. Of these articles, Defant is most proud of one that develops a new combinatorial construction concerning the postorder traversals of decreasing plane trees. Defant used his construction to solve an open problem from 1990. He then applied that result in order to make significant progress toward a solution to another problem from 1990 that many researchers had deemed intractable.

Colin is actively involved in organizing events that encourage an appreciation of mathematics among the general public, especially among high school students. When he was the president of the University Math Society at the University of Florida, he advised his peers on how to find mathematical research opportunities and how to conduct research and give presentations professionally. Every summer since 2017, he has worked as an adviser at the University of Minnesota Duluth Mathematics REU program.

In high school, Defant pole vaulted for his school’s track team and taught several other students how to pole vault. He hopes to continue pole vaulting after he earns his Ph.D. In his free time, he enjoys composing electronic music and listening to music by Owl City.

“Because of the Hertz Foundation, I was able to spend two semesters visiting MIT and Harvard. These semesters were extremely influential on my development as a mathematician. I learned more about algebraic combinatorics during the first semester when I visited than during any other semester.”
– Colin Defant

Graduate Studies

Princeton University
Stack-Sorting and Beyond

Undergraduate Studies

University of Florida

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