He's Got Hops: A. Jeffs, CMU Parkour Aficionado

Credit: Filip Tuhy Credit: Filip Tuhy

Carnegie Mellon’s math department is home to some of the brightest minds in the mathematical world, as well as some adventurous individuals, within academia and outside of it. One such individual is Professor Amzi Jeffs, a current postdoctoral associate. Jeffs received his doctorate from the University of Washington after defending his thesis on neural codes and the morphisms, minors, and obstructions of their convexity. To the mathematically untrained ear, this simply means Jeffs knows quite a bit about geometric structures and the arrangement of convex sets. He is particularly proud of a new theorem, his first, he proved in his thesis, basically stating that “certain arrangements of sets have to look a certain way and exist in certain dimensions.” While this might sound like common sense, to the mathematician, this theorem is freshly pioneered ground in a relatively new field of research.

So far at Carnegie Mellon, Jeffs has enjoyed learning from his colleagues and superiors and interacting with eager students in the classroom. Currently, during the workday, Professor Jeffs can be found imparting the secrets of Differential and Integral calculus to his students. Otherwise, he’s found in his office. Except sometimes, when he’s not jumping around combinatorial geometric structures, and he's instead doing parkour — jumping on, off, and from concrete structures in the city. Jeffs first picked up parkour the summer before high school and has kept at it ever since. He especially found appeal in the “exploratory and problem-solving aspect of it” — spoken like a true mathematician. While it might seem like parkour and math are totally unrelated, to Jeffs, they actually share many similarities: the mental and physical navigation he does during parkour is not unlike the process of logical navigation he carries out when working through complex mathematics.

Jeffs’ exploratory spirit doesn’t apply just to math and parkour. A more recent hobby of his is cooking! Ever since he took up veganism a few years ago, Jeffs has tried his hand at various vegan recipes and developed a knack for it. One could say cooking is also another one of Jeffs’ exploratory endeavors.

Back in grad school, Professor Jeffs ventured into the world of grassroots political organizing and worker’s unions, creating some ripples along the way. Most notably, Jeffs took part in the Tax Amazon movement, which provided millions of dollars for subsidized housing for graduate students of the University of Washington at the time. Currently, Jeffs still is steadfast in his support of national and local labor unions.

Jeffs’s current projects include organizing the 2023 Algorithms, Combinatorics, and Optimization (ACO) seminar for Carnegie Mellon.