Mathematician Jason Behrstock Is Named a Simons Foundation Fellow

February 24, 2022

The competitive fellowship, Behrstock’s second from the Simons Foundation, will support his sabbatical research on theoretical mathematics.

By Bonnie Eissner

Jason Behrstock - Faculty -  profile photo
Jason Behrstock (courtesy of Behrstock)

Professor Jason Behrstock (GC/Lehman, Mathematics) was named a 2022 Simons Foundation Fellow in Theoretical Mathematics. The competitive fellowship, awarded to 38 mathematics professors nationwide, provides funds for Behrstock to extend his spring ’22 sabbatical through the fall. Behrstock is spending his sabbatical year conducting research with mathematics faculty members at Barnard College. This is his second Simons Foundation fellowship.

Behrstock, whose primary research interests are geometric group theory and low-dimensional topology, is focused on understanding the structural properties of random network graphs. These are graphs of how objects relate to each other in large, changing networks, such as the links between computers across the internet or the fluctuating connections between brain cells.

“By understanding something random, you can build systems and build an understanding of objects that appear in real life,” Behrstock said.

In addition, he is interested in connecting his findings on random network graphs to hyperbolic geometry (geometry involving surfaces and planes that don’t follow Euclid’s axiom about parallel lines) and understanding the symmetry of objects.

Behrstock teaches and advises mathematics Ph.D. students at the Graduate Center. His previous advisees have been successful in landing professional roles in and beyond academia, including a tenured faculty position at Bard College, a postdoctoral fellowship at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and a research role at the National Security Agency.

While on sabbatical, Behrstock will continue to run the weekly CUNY Geometry and Topology Seminar.

“It’s good for people to pursue topics that interest them and not worry as much about what the normal constraints are of a given area or a given field,” Behrstock said when asked for his advice on conducting research that can lead to grants and fellowships. “I think a lot of the success in my work has been bringing ideas from different areas that I’m interested in and not worrying about what the boundaries are of geometric group theory, low-dimensional topology, etc. I think that’s valuable. It’s been valuable for me intellectually, and I think is advice not heard frequently enough by junior researchers who may feel constrained by what they perceive are rigid boundaries.”

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