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Photo by Orin Zyvan ’04

John Wilmes ’10


Hometown: Mundelein, Illinois

How Reed changed me: Reed has given me a critical mind, and taught me to find the big picture. The demands of my mathematics courses in particular have had an enormous impact on how I think. Whether I am studying philosophy, debating public policy, or deciding what to do with the rest of my life, I am grateful for the rigor of Reed’s academics.

Influential book: Professor Jerry Shurman’s Multivariable Calculus notes, which were my first introduction to higher maths. This book flipped me from computer scientist to pure mathematician in the second week of my freshman year, and I’ve never looked back.

Cool stuff I did: Learned to tango. Went on dozens of Gray Fund trips, thereby learning to snowboard, rock climb, and enjoy opera. Played go. Went to Hungary. Fell in love with the bicycle as a primary mode of transportation. Won a Goldwater Scholarship.

Adviser: Prof. David Perkinson

Thesis: Algebraic Invariants of Sandpile Graphs

What it’s about: The abelian sandpile model allows one to define a homogeneous ideal over the vertices of a graph. My thesis explores the ways in which the Betti numbers of this ideal encode the structure of the graph.

What it’s really about: Doing algebra combinatorially, or maybe doing graph theory algebraically.

What’s next:  Pursue pure mathematics at the University of Chicago on a McCormick Fellowship and an NSF grant.