Chris Seaton

Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Chair
(901) 843-3721


Despite being a math professor, I′m not a "math person," if such a thing even exists.  I didn′t decide to study mathematics until pretty late in college, and went from being relatively dismissive of mathematics to completely obsessed in a three-week period. Because of my background, I remember vividly what it is like to be uninterested in math but now understand how much I was missing out. At any level of mathematics, there are beautiful structures that appeal to our natural human desire to solve puzzles and "see how things work."  Thinking that you need to spend years studying mathematics in order to appreciate these structures and puzzles is like thinking that you have to learn how to be a professional typesetter in order to enjoy a book.

In the classroom, my primary goal is to entice students to appreciate the mathematics they are learning. Like most things worth doing, math can be difficult. But students far too commonly focus on the difficulty of mathematics, which certainly doesn′t make it any easier to understand. From introductory to advanced classes, I focus on the motivation and relevance of the material in terms of applications either outside or inside of mathematics. I stress the ways that the material confronts our intuition and challenges us to find out "what is really going on," striving constantly to leave my students eager to understand, not just to finish the current homework assignment. It is impossible to learn math without doing math, and if you are going to do math, you might as well love every second of it. Or at least most of them.

Since joining the department in 2004, I′ve most frequently taught Calculus III, Cryptology, and Applied Calculus. I′ve re-designed the Applied Calculus course at Rhodes with Rachel Dunwell, and have offered a number of topics and directed inquiry courses on advanced material. Almost every mathematics course at Rhodes includes material that plays a significant role in my research, so I try to teach as many courses as possible.

Additionally, my research interests involve a lot of examples that need to be computed and understood. Even low-dimensional examples of the objects that I study can be complicated, and computations involving these examples involve a synthesis of geometry, topology, and algebra that can make for a great learning experience for students. I′m very interested in teaching students the skills that they need to perform these computations so that we can try to understand the structures embedded in these computations.  I′ve worked with several students at Rhodes (and at other places) and have gotten positive results, and I′m always interested in recruiting more student collaborators. Students at any level are encouraged to inquire further.


I am interested in the geometry and topology of objects with singularities, i.e., objects that have a "smoothness" that breaks down due to sharp corners, edges, or other types of "unsmoothness." Primarily, I study objects called Orbifolds and other objects whose singularities arise from collections of symmetries. Most of my work is differential topology or differential geometry, meaning that I use calculus-like techniques to study the shapes and structures of these singular spaces. However, understanding these objects involves using techniques from many fields of mathematics, including both algebra and analysis. I love being able to work in an area that combines so many different kinds of math.

Currently, I am working with several people to better understand certain collections of invariants for orbifolds, as well as to extend related techniques to more general singular spaces.  Recently, I have presented research at the Great Planes Operator Theory Symposium as well as several AMS meetings. I′ve also co-organized an AMS Special Session and Mellon Collaborative Workshop. I have co-authored several research papers with undergraduate students.


I grew up in Downriver Detroit, where much of my family still lives.  Before coming to Memphis in 2004, I lived in Boulder, Colorado, which I still frequently visit. My twin brother lives in Brooklyn, New York, so I go there often as well. I studied abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and participated in a German-American exchange program twice while in high school.

Currently, I live in Midtown with my wife Lauren and dog Meatball.  When I′m pretending to not to think about math, I′m usually listening to or making music. I play bass guitar in a few local Memphis bands, currently Switchblade Kid and Woodenmouth, and have played in bands pretty consistently since I started high school. I′ll listen to almost anything and love to stretch my ear. The only thing I enjoy better than a good live music performance is a good session of working on mathematics--and I often try to combine these two with varying results.

I am obsessed with zombies in popular culture, think that socks are the most important part of an outfit, and garden in the middle of the night.  I love sketch and stand-up comedy, This American Life, web-comics, aimless walks, and road trips.  Most of my past roommates and house-mates would tell you that I am the heaviest sleeper they′ve ever met.


(with Hans-Christian Herbig) The Hilbert series of a linear symplectic circle quotient, to appear in Experimental Mathematics.

(with Carla Farsi and Emily Proctor) The Gamma-spectrum of an orbifold, to appear in the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society.

(with John Wells) An orbit Cartan type decomposition of the inertia space of SO(2m) acting on R^{2m}, Involve 6 (2013) 467—482.

(with Ryan Carroll) Extensions of the Euler–Satake characteristic for nonorientable 3-orbifolds and indistinguishable examples, Involve 6 (2013) 345—368.

(with Ryan Carroll) Extensions of the Euler-Satake characteristic determine point singularities of orientable 3-orbifolds, Kodai Mathematical Journal 36 (2013) 179—188.

(with Carla Farsi and Hans-Christian Herbig) On orbifold criteria for symplectic toric quotients,  SIGMA. Symmetry, Integrability and Geometry. Methods and Applications 9 (2013) Paper 032, 33pp.

(with Carla Farsi) Algebraic structures associated to orbifold wreath products, Journal of K-Theory 8 (2011) 323—338.

(with John Schulte and Bradford Taylor) Free and free abelian Euler-Satake characteristics of nonorientable 2-orbifolds, Topology and its Applications 158 (2011) 2244—2255.

(with Carla Farsi) Generalized orbifold Euler characteristics for general orbifolds and wreath products, Algebraic & Geometric Topology 11 (2011) 523—551.

(with Whitney DuVal, John Schulte, and Bradford Taylor) Classifying closed 2-orbifolds with Euler characteristics, Glasgow Mathematical Journal 52 (2010), 555—574.

(with Carla Farsi) Generalized twisted sectors of orbifolds, Pacific Journal of Mathematics 246 (2010) 49—74.

(with Carla Farsi) Nonvanishing vector fields on orbifolds, Transactions of the American Mathematical Society 362 (2010), 509—535.


B.A., Mathematics, Kalamazoo College
Ph.D., Mathematics, University of Colorado at Boulder