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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R028702/1
Title: On Cherlin's conjecture for finite binary primitive permutation groups
Principal Investigator: Gill, Dr N
Other Investigators:
Liebeck, Professor M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Faculty of Computing, Eng. and Science
Organisation: University of South Wales
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2018 Ends: 31 March 2020 Value (£): 97,372
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Algebra & Geometry
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
29 Nov 2017 EPSRC Mathematical Sciences Prioritisation Panel November 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This research concerns the connection between the "local symmetry" and "global symmetry" of a mathematical object. To understand what this means let us consider the symmetries of a simple mathematical object: a regular hexagon.

If I randomly pick two different sides of this hexagon, then it is clear that they "look the same" -- this just follows from the fact that the hexagon is regular and so all sides have the same length. This is an example of a "local symmetry" -- that's the mathematical terminology for a situation where two portions of a mathematical object that look the same.

On the other hand, because the hexagon is regular there are many "global symmetries" -- these are transformations of my object so that after the transformation it still "looks the same". In the case of the regular hexagon, for instance, I can reflect the hexagon through a line connecting two opposite corners, and the resulting object will be the same as the one I started with. Likewise, I can rotate my hexagon by any multiple of 60 degrees and the same will be true -- these are all examples of global symmetries.

Now a natural question that mathematicians want to know when they study any given mathematical object is "when does the presence of a local symmetry imply the presence of a global symmetry?". For instance in the example above, it is clear that given any pair of edges on my hexagon, I can find a global symmetry (a rotation, for example) that moves the first edge to the second edge. Thus we could say that the local symmetry here is just a consequence of the global symmetry. In fact this is rather unusual: most mathematical objects will have many local symmetries that are NOT consequences of some global symmetry. A mathematical object for which all local symmetries derive from global symmetries is very special, and is called HOMOGENEOUS.

The research in this project concerns homogeneous RELATIONAL STRUCTURES. A relational structure is just a particular generalization of a network: take a bunch of "nodes" and connect them with "edges" and you have made yourself a network (think of cities connected by roads, or computers connected by wires for real-life examples). Indeed the hexagon can be thought of as a network -- each corner can be thought of as a node (there are 6 of these), and then there are 6 edges connecting the nodes. We would like to know which networks are homogeneous. To fully understand this question, one needs to be a bit careful about how we define the notion of "symmetry" for a network and there is not time to do this here. As a teaser, though, let us mention that the network given by a hexagon is NOT homogeneous, whereas the network given by a pentagon IS!

Finally, let us say a word about our methods: whenever one studies symmetry in mathematics, one is effectively doing GROUP THEORY. The set of symmetries of any mathematical object (say the reflections and rotations of our regular hexagon), is called the GROUP associated to the object. One can study this group "in the abstract", i.e. without really needing to study the object it is associated with. For instance, if I perform a particular reflection and then a particular rotation of my hexagon, I will end up with a new symmetry of the hexagon (in fact it will be another of the reflections) and I can think of this as a type of "multiplication" of my symmetries: I've "multiplied" two symmetries together and the result is a third symmetry. To fully describe the symmetry group of my hexagon I just need to write down the "multiplication table" of all pairs of symmetries.

A great deal is known about the structure of different groups. Indeed one of the most famous and important mathematical theorems is called THE CLASSIFICATION OF FINITE SIMPLE GROUPS and it describes the structure of an important class of groups. In this research we will use this theorem to study homogeneous relational structures; our aim is to classify an important subclass of these objects.
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Organisation Website: http://www.southwales.ac.uk