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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P02310X/1
Title: Left 3-Engel elements in groups
Principal Investigator: Traustason, Dr G
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Mathematical Sciences
Organisation: University of Bath
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2017 Ends: 31 July 2020 Value (£): 285,012
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Algebra & Geometry
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
29 Nov 2016 EPSRC Mathematical Sciences Prioritisation Panel November 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form


The project falls within an area of pure mathematics that deals with the notion of symmetry in a very general sense. To describe a given symmetry one associates to it an algebraic system, a group, consisting of the operations that preserve the given symmetry. In this way one is able to study and analyse the symmetry with mathematical rigour focusing on the algebraic system that captures it. Normally the collection of operations is generated by a subset. For example for the Rubics cube all the operations are generated by 6 basic operations corresponding to the 6 sides of the cube. The total number of operations is however enormous which is the reason why the Rubics cube is tricky to solve. When the group can be described in terms of finitely many operations we say that it is finitely generated. A central question regarding such finitely generated groups is whether it must be finite if all the operations are of finite order (i.e. if, for each operation, if it is repeated a finite number of times we are back where we started).

The precise mathematical questions were formulated by the English mathematician William Burnside in 1902. The answer to the general question turned out to be negative and as a result a large main subbranch of group theory opened up that remains one of the central branches of group theory today with a number of major challanges as well as breakthroughs of which one of the most spectacular is the `solution to the restricted Burnside problem' by the Russian mathematician Efim Zel'manov for which he received the Fields medal in 1994. The work of Zel'manov has had a profound impact on Group Theory in the last two decades.

Engel conditions are a certain type of technical algebraic conditions that appear in the study of these problems and are crucial in both gaining better understanding of the Burnside problems as well as being of interest in their own right when studying symmetry. The central problem of the proposed project is a well known difficult open problem in the area and involves a systematic study of finitely generated groups with specific properties. The question is whether these groups have a certain finite-like structure (called nilpotent) and the conclusion in that case would be in particular that if the generators are of finite order then the group would be finite.

The approach will be based on a recent advance made by the principal investigator where the problem has been solved when the number of generators is three as well as for any number of generators when the group has exponent 5 (meaning that all the non-trivial operations have order 5). The aim would be to use the techniques developed in this work to tackle the more general problem.

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Organisation Website: http://www.bath.ac.uk