Lazebnik “is one of the most important researchers in graph theory,”
whose work in 1995 on constructing a particular kind of graph “is still
the best in the world,” said Sebastian Cioabă, associate professor of
mathematical sciences at UD and one of the conference organizers.
Lazebnik, who was born and grew up in Kiev, Ukraine, in what was then
the Soviet Union, earned his master’s degree in mathematics at Kiev
State University. He taught high school for four years at a boarding
school at the university, where students from throughout Ukraine were
able to study more advanced math and physics than were offered at other
Even today, Lazebnik said, that high school teaching experience, in
which he worked with the same youngsters for three years and so got to
know them well and help them develop their skills over time, remains one
of his most meaningful and enjoyable jobs. He is still in touch with
many of his former students, some of whom have gone on to their own
careers in mathematics.
“On the other hand, I would never have been able to study mathematics
further and do active research if I continued that work,” he said, so
when the opportunity to leave the Soviet Union arose, he and his family
came to the United States.
Arriving in Philadelphia with little knowledge of the American system
of higher education, he wrote letters to several mathematicians, who
offered him “remarkable advice and support,” he said. The first thing he
learned was that, in order to teach at a university, he would need a
Lazebnik applied to the University of Pennsylvania, without even
knowing the school’s reputation and Ivy League status, and was accepted.
He worked part-time as a lecturer and teaching assistant—and, during a
yearlong leave of absence from Penn, as a full-time actuarial assistant
at an insurance company—and earned his doctorate in 1987. He joined the
UD faculty that same year.
He is the author of numerous papers in academic journals and serves
on the editorial board of the Electronic Journal of Combinatorics. He
has supervised many undergraduate and graduate students, and is
currently working with three doctoral students.
The conference seeks to “expand, deepen and broaden the research” in
new areas of graph theory, according to the National Science Foundation,
one of the sponsors. Other sponsors are UD’s Department of Mathematical
Sciences, Villanova University, Muhlenberg College, the Center for
Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science at Rutgers
University, the International Linear Algebra Society and the Institute
for Mathematics and Its Applications.
Article by Ann Manser; illustrations by Jeff Chase and courtesy of Eric Moorhouse