Moon Duchin

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Moon Duchin
ResidenceUnited States
Alma materHarvard University
University of Chicago
Known forResearch in geometric group theory and the mathematics of gerrymandering
AwardsFellow of the American Mathematical Society, Guggenheim Fellowship
Scientific career
InstitutionsTufts University
ThesisThin triangles and a multiplicative ergodic theorem for Teichmüller geometry (2005)
Doctoral advisorAlex Eskin

Moon Duchin is an American mathematician who works as an associate professor at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Her mathematical research concerns geometric topology, geometric group theory, and Teichmüller theory.[1] She is also interested in the history of science,[1] and is one of the core faculty members of the Science, Technology, and Society program at Tufts.[1] She has done significant research on the mathematics of redistricting and gerrymandering, and founded a research group to advance these mathematical studies and their nonpartisan application in the real world of US politics.

Early life and education[edit]

Duchin was given her first name, Moon, by parents "on the science-y fringes of the hippie classification". She grew up knowing from a young age that she wanted to become a mathematician.[2] As a student at Stamford High School in Connecticut, she completed the regular high school mathematics curriculum in her sophomore year, and continued to learn mathematics through independent study.[2] She was active in math and science camps and competitions, and did a summer research project in the geometry of numbers with Noam Elkies.[2]

Duchin studied at Harvard University as an undergraduate, where she was also active in queer organizing,[3] and finished a double major in mathematics and women's studies in 1998.[2][4] As a graduate student in mathematics at the University of Chicago, she continued her feminist activism by teaching gender studies and pushing the university to add gender-neutral bathrooms,[2][5] and was mentioned mockingly by name on the Rush Limbaugh show.[2] She completed her doctorate in 2005, under the supervision of Alex Eskin.[6] She was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Davis, and the University of Michigan, before joining the Tufts faculty in 2011.[2][4]


Duchin's mathematical research has focused on geometric topology, geometric group theory, and Teichmüller theory.[1] For example, one of her results is that, for a broad class of locally flat surfaces, the geometry of the surface is entirely determined by the shortest length in each homotopy class of simple closed curves.[7]

Duchin's expertise in geometry has led her to conduct research on the mathematics of gerrymandering. A key aspect of this research is the geometric notion of the compactness of a given political district, a numerical measure that attempts to quantify how extensively gerrymandered it is.[8] “What courts have been looking for is one definition of compactness that they can understand, that we can compute, and that they can use as a kind of go-to standard”, she said in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education.[9]

To help tackle the challenge of finding an agreed-upon standard, Duchin has developed a long-term, wide-ranging project on the mathematics of gerrymandering.[9] As a part of this project, she founded a summer program to train mathematicians to become expert witnesses in related legal cases.[10][11] In 2016, she founded the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (MGGG), a nonpartisan research group which coordinates and publicizes research on geometry and computing, and their application to the redistricting process in the US.[12]

In 2018-2019 she is on leave of absence from Tufts, and is a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Her research focus is "Political Geometry: The Mathematics of Redistricting".[13]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2016 Duchin was named as a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society "for contributions to geometric group theory and Teichmüller theory, and for service to the mathematical community".[14] She was also a Mathematical Association of America Distinguished Lecturer for that year, speaking on the mathematics of voting systems.[15] In 2018 she was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d "Department of Mathematics: People: Moon Duchin". Tufts University. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Vanderkam, Laura (June 23, 2008), "Blazing a trail for women in math: Moon Duchin", Scientific American.
  3. ^ Welker, Kristen (December 3, 1994), "Defamatory Poster Appalls Students", The Harvard Crimson
  4. ^ a b "Moon Duchin [CV]" (PDF). Tufts University. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  5. ^ Closeted/OUT in the Quadrangles: A History of LGBTQ Life at the University of Chicago, University of Chicago Libraries, 2015, retrieved December 15, 2016.
  6. ^ Moon Duchin at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  7. ^ Technically, "shortest length" here means an infimum of lengths, as there is not generally a single shortest representative curve for the class. See Bowman, Joshua Paul (2011). Review of Duchin, Moon; Leininger, Christopher J.; Rafi, Kasra (2010), "Length spectra and degeneration of flat metrics", Inventiones Mathematicae, 182 (2): 231–277, arXiv:0907.2082, Bibcode:2010InMat.182..231D, doi:10.1007/s00222-010-0262-y, MR 2729268.
  8. ^ "Can Geometry Root Out Gerrymandering?". Science Friday. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Meet the Math Professor Who's Fighting Gerrymandering With Geometry". The Chronicle of Higher Education. February 22, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  10. ^ "Regional Sites – Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group". Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  11. ^ "A Summer School for Mathematicians Fed Up with Gerrymandering". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  12. ^ Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group. "Our Team". Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  13. ^ "Moon Duchin". Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Harvard University. April 5, 2018. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  14. ^ 2017 Class of the Fellows of the AMS, accessed December 11, 2016.
  15. ^ Math and the Vote: A Geometer Examines Elections, Mathematical Association of America, accessed December 11, 2016.
  16. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Moon Duchin". Guggenheim Foundation. Retrieved September 5, 2018.

External links[edit]