Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Tom Richmond (Director), Ferhan Atici, Mark Robinson

Degree Program

Department of Mathematics

Degree Type

Master of Science


This thesis consists of two main chapters along with an introduction and
conclusion. In the introduction, we address the inspiration for the thesis, which
originates in a common calculus problem wherein travel time is minimized across two media separated by a single, straight boundary line. We then discuss the correlation of this problem with physics via Snells Law. The first core chapter takes this idea and develops it to include the concept of two media with a circular border. To make the problem easier to discuss, we talk about it in terms of running and swimming speeds. We first address the case where the starting and ending points for the passage are both on the boundary. We find the possible optimal paths, and also determine the conditions under which we travel along each path. Next we move the starting point to a location outside the boundary. While we are not able to determine the exact optimal path, we do arrive at some conclusions about what does not constitute the optimal path. In the second chapter, we alter this problem to address a rectangular enclosed boundary, which we refer to as a swimming pool. The variations in this scenario prove complex enough that we focus on the case where both starting and ending points are on the boundary. We start by considering starting and ending points on adjacent sides of the rectangle. We identify three possibilities for the fastest path, and are able to identify the conditions that will make each path optimal. We then address the case where the points are on opposite sides of the pool. We identify the possible paths for a minimum time and once again ascertain the conditions that make each path optimal. We conclude by briefly designating some other scenarios that we began to investigate, but were not able to explore in depth. They promise insightful results, and we hope to be able to address them in the future.


Geometry and Topology | Mathematics | Ordinary Differential Equations and Applied Dynamics | Physics