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Erica Flapan

Emerita Professor of Mathematics
With Pomona Since: 1986
  • Expertise


    Erica Flapan’s field of research is the area of topology known as “spatial graph theory,” which involves studying the topology of graphs embedded in three-dimensional space. Flapan has worked for more than 30 years, applying topological methods to problems in chemistry and molecular biology, including knotting of DNA and proteins, and symmetries of non-rigid molecules. While many of her publications are about the topological structure of arbitrary graphs embedded in 3-manifolds, most of her work is either motivated by or closely related to the study of the topology of non-rigid molecules.

    Research Interests

    • 3-Manifolds
    • Knot Theory
    • Topology of Embedded Graphs
    • Topological Chemistry

    Areas of Expertise


    • Embedded Graphs
    • Knot Theory
    • Topological Chemistry
    • Topology
    • 3-Manifolds
  • Work


    E. Flapan, K. Kozai, "Random Linear Embeddings of Graphs," Journal of Mathematical Chemistry, Vol. 54, (2016) 1117–1133.

    E. Flapan, G. Heller, "Topological Complexity in Protein Structures," Molecular Based Mathematical Biology, Vol. 3, Issue 1 (2015) 23–42.

    E. Flapan, N. Lehle, B. Mellor, M. Pittluck, X. Vongsathorn, "Symmetries of Embedded Complete Bipartite Graphs," Fundamenta Mathematicae, Vol. 226, (2014) 1–16.

    E. Flapan, E. Davie Lawrence, "Topological Symmetry Groups of Möbius Ladders," Journal of Knot Theory and its Ramifications, Vol. 23 (2014) 1–13.

    Knots, Molecules, and the Universe: An Introduction to Topology (American Mathematical Society, 2015)

    With J. Pommersheim and T. Marks, Number Theory: A Lively Introduction with Proofs, Applications, and Stories (Wiley, 2010)

    When Topology Meets Chemistry: A Look at Molecular Chirality (Cambridge University Press, 2000)

  • Education


    1983, Ph.D.
    University of Wisconsin, Madison

    1979, Master of Arts
    University of Wisconsin, Madison

    1977, Bachelor of Arts
    Hamilton College

    Recent Courses Taught

    • Calculus I
    • Introduction to Analysis
    • Calculus with Applied Mathematics for Science and Economics
    • Topology
  • Awards & Honors

    Awards & Honors

    NSF DMS grant (#1607744), "BIOMAPS: Spatial graphs and their applications to complex molecular structures," 2016-2018

    Polya Lecturer of the Mathematical Association of America, 2015-2017

    Pomona College, Wig Distinguished Professorship Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2014

    Inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, 2012 

    Mathematical Association of America, Haimo Award for Distinguished Teaching awarded to those "widely recognized as extraordinarily successful and whose teaching effectiveness has been shown to have had an influence beyond their institutions," 2011

    National Science Foundation; research grant for $182,226, “Topological symmetries and the intrinsic properties of graphs embedded in 3-space,” 2009-2012; National Science Foundation CCLI Grant, ''Enhancing the Mathematical Understanding of Students in Chemistry'', 2000-2004

    Association for Women in Mathematics/National Science Foundation Travel Grant, 2006

    Irvine Foundation, award for mentoring students of color at Pomona College, 2005

    AWM-NSF Michler Collaborative Research Grant, 2004