Publication Date

Summer 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Claus Ernst (Director), Dr. Uta Ziegler, and Dr. Molly Dunkum

Degree Program

Department of Mathematics

Degree Type

Master of Science


Knot nullification is an unknotting operation performed on knots and links that can be used to model DNA recombination moves of circular DNA molecules in the laboratory. Thus nullification is a biologically relevant operation that should be studied.

Nullification moves can be naturally grouped into two classes: coherent nullification, which preserves the orientation of the knot, and incoherent nullification, which changes the orientation of the knot. We define the coherent (incoherent) nullification number of a knot or link as the minimal number of coherent (incoherent) nullification moves needed to unknot any knot or link. This thesis concentrates on the study of such nullification numbers. In more detail, coherent nullification moves have already been studied at quite some length. This is because the preservation of the previous orientation of the knot, or link, makes the coherent operation easier to study. In particular, a complete solution of coherent nullification numbers has been obtained for the torus knot family, (the solution of the torus link family is still an open question). In this thesis, we concentrate on incoherent nullification numbers, and place an emphasis on calculating the incoherent nullification number for the torus knot and link family. Unfortunately, we were unable to compute the exact incoherent nullification numbers for most torus knots. Instead, our main results are upper and lower bounds on the incoherent nullification number of torus knots and links. In addition we conjecture what the actual incoherent nullification number of a torus knot will be.


Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorics | Mathematics | Number Theory | Physics