Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Randy C. Paffenroth, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Brigitte Servatius, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Joseph D. Fehribach, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Umberto Mosco, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Seth Chaiken, Committee Member




Kirchhoff's laws are well-studied for electrical networks with voltage and current sources, and edges marked by resistors. Kirchhoff's voltage law states that the sum of voltages around any circuit of the network graph is zero, while Kirchhoff's current law states that the sum of the currents along any cutset of the network graph is zero. Given a network, these requirements may be encoded by the circuit matrix and cutset matrix of the network graph. The columns of these matrices are indexed by the edges of the network graph, and their row spaces are orthogonal complements. For (chemical or electrochemical) reaction networks, one must naturally study the opposite problem, beginning with the stoichiometric matrix rather than the network graph. This leads to the following question: given such a matrix, what is a suitable graphic rendering of a network that properly visualizes the underlying chemical reactions? Although we can not expect uniqueness, the goal is to prove existence of such a graph for any matrix. Specifically, we study Kirchhoff graphs, originally introduced by Fehribach. Mathematically, Kirchhoff graphs represent the orthocomplementarity of the row space and null space of integer-valued matrices. After introducing the definition of Kirchhoff graphs, we will survey Kirchhoff graphs in the context of several diverse branches of mathematics. Beginning with combinatorial group theory, we consider Cayley graphs of the additive group of vector spaces, and resolve the existence problem for matrices over finite fields. Moving to linear algebra, we draw a number of conclusions based on a purely matrix-theoretic definition of Kirchhoff graphs, specifically regarding the number of vector edges. Next we observe a geometric approach, reviewing James Clerk Maxwell's theory of reciprocal figures, and presenting a number of results on Kirchhoff duality. We then turn to algebraic combinatorics, where we study equitable partitions, quotients, and graph automorphisms. In addition to classifying the matrices that are the quotient of an equitable partition, we demonstrate that many Kirchhoff graphs arise from equitable edge-partitions of directed graphs. Finally we study matroids, where we review Tutte's algorithm for determining when a binary matroid is graphic, and extend this method to show that every binary matroid is Kirchhoff. The underlying theme throughout each of these investigations is determining new ways to both recognize and construct Kirchhoff graphs.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Mathematical Sciences

Project Type


Date Accepted





matroids, vector graphs, matrices, Kirchhoff graphs