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Western New England University Professor Thomas Hull Publishes New Book

SPRINGFIELD — Thomas Hull, associate professor of Mathematics at Western New England University (WNEU), recently published his latest book, Origametry: Mathematical Methods in Paper Folding. In his book, Hull takes a deep dive into the math behind origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding.

“This is the first book of its kind,” he said. “Origami can be studied with math in many ways, such as using geometry, calculus, or matrices. This is the first book that brings all these different approaches together to streamline them into a cohesive theory.”

Hull’s research uses graph theory, combinatorics, geometry, and other areas of math, with applications in engineering, materials science, art, and education. He is a leading expert on the mathematics of origami, having given talks on this topic all over the world.

“Interest in origami has been increasing over the past eight years, especially among engineers and physicists,” he said. “They see origami-inspired mechanisms as novel ways to do things like deploy large structures — such as solar panel arrays — into outer space or to make nanoscale robots. This book gathers the math needed to study such applications in one place.”

Hull has been practicing origami since he was 8 years old and studying the mathematics behind origami for the past 30 years. He holds both a PhD and a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Rhode Island and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Hampshire College.

Several of the origami models he has invented are well-known among origami artists, including his ‘five intersecting tetrahedra’ model, a star-like structure, featured on the cover of his new book, which the British Origami Society voted as being one of the top 10 origami models of all time.

“The book took over 10 years to write,” he said. “In addition to the fundamentals of origami math, it also contains research that I did with undergraduate students at Western New England University.” Hull often brings the art of origami into his math classes, and every year he has undergraduate students working with him on origami-related research. In the fall 2021 semester, he will offer a math course at WNEU on the mathematics of origami, using his new book as a guide.

“Faculty like Dr. Hull who take part in research and discovery are actively participating in their field and have access to cutting-edge insight in the subject matter they teach,” said Curt Hamakawa, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “By sharing that insight in the classroom — in this case incorporating origami lines and 3D configurations to teach math — they bring life to the academic world and provide the opportunity for students to witness the evolution of an industry.”

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