My mathematics

Until October 2003 I was a research student at Trinity College and DPMMS, Cambridge. I have done a PhD from 1999 to 2002 and for 2002–3 I had a Senior Rouse Ball Studentship from Trinity; I still sometimes think about unsolved problems and go to Combinatorics Seminars of particular interest (with no official position in the University or a College).

My Erdős number is 3 (Erdős—{Bollobás, Janson, Łuczak, Payan, Schelp}—Thomason—Myers).

Serious research

My general research area is combinatorics, and most of my research so far has been on extremal problems in graph theory (loosely interpreted). The specific area within this in which I have made the most progress is that of graph minors (though I have also worked on various other problems).

My PhD supervisor was Dr Andrew Thomason. I submitted my PhD dissertation Extremal Theory of Graph Minors and Directed Graphs on 31 October 2002 and passed my viva on 8 January 2003. The award of the degree was then considered by the Degree Committee on 23 January 2003 and approved by the Board of Graduate Studies on 11 February 2003. The degree was conferred at the Congregation of the Regent House held on 22 February 2003.

Details of papers published (generally with abstracts and copies of the papers) or submitted, seminars given, etc., are on my publications and preprints page, which also includes nonacademic work.

Mathematical recreations

There is no general definition of the distinction between ‘serious’ mathematics and recreational mathematics, nor in all cases a clear distinction. Typically the recreational may involve solutions to particular special-case problems with no ‘interesting’ generalisations, or the generation of examples with no particular underlying theory, or ideas without many links to the rest of mathematics, while the serious may involve deeper ideas, generalisations and links to other mathematics, but problems of a recreational nature may have links to deeper mathematics, and generating all the examples with some property may be mathematically hard but of no significance, while problems couched in serious terms and with complicated solutions may turn out to be so specialised that neither the problems nor the solutions are of any wider interest. Hardy’s A Mathematician’s Apology discusses the nature of serious mathematics in much greater depth.

Thus, the distinction followed here is to some extent arbitrary, but contributing factors are the generation of examples without underlying theory, the special-case or trivial nature of the problems, and not being published in academic journals.

Mathematical olympiads

I have been involved in various ways in Mathematical Olympiads since 1992, as a contestant while at school and subsequently helping in various ways with training the next generations of contestants and other activities.

After correspondence training from Tony Gardiner starting in 1992 (and competing in the IIIMC in 1993 and the BMO in 1994 and 1995, but never in the NMC) I was on the UK International Mathematical Olympiad team in 1994 (Hong Kong) and 1995 (Canada). Under the training arrangements then in operation, those teams were also at the first two Summer Schools, at The Queen’s College, Oxford, which doubled as pre-IMO training for the IMO team.

Subsequently I have helped with various aspects of Olympiads and training:

Since 1996 I have maintained the UK IMO Register, a listing of the details of past UK team members in the International Mathematical Olympiad. Since February 2003 I have maintained the web site for the British Mathematical Olympiad Subtrust (BMOS) and Committee (BMOC), and since September 2010 I have been a member of BMOC; since October 2013 I have been a member of BMOS. I also maintain the web sites for the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad and EGMO 2012.

I was also involved with the film X + Y.

See also notes on some individual olympiad problems and other olympiad-related notes.

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Contact: Joseph Myers (
Last updated: 11 July 2023