Modern Algebra

Math 627A
Fall 2011
Course number: 21876
Meeting MW 5:30 - 6:45
GMCS 307
San Diego State University
Last Class: Wed. Dec. 7.
Final Exam: Fri. Dec. 16, 1:00-3:00.

Professor: Mike O'Sullivan
Web page:
Office: GMCS #579, ext. 594-6697
Office Hours: MW 2-4.

                             Other times: by appointment.

Detailed Information

Notes on prerequisite material.(pdf)
Notes on Groebner bases.(pdf)
Notes on modules.(pdf)
Problems for the exam and notes on UFDs.(pdf)

Course Description

We will study algebraic geometry, one of the oldest and richest areas of mathematics. During the 20th century, the theoretical and very abstract side of the subject was prominent, but with the availability of computers, the computational roots have been reinvigorated. This course will develop the theory behind the computational tools.

What is algebraic geometry? Think back to high-school algebra where you graphed polynomial equations and perhaps found the intersection of plane curves defined by a line and a parabola or more general curves defined by polynomials. Now think about higher dimensional space and consider intersections of hyper-surfaces defined by polynomial equations. Such objects are called algebraic sets or algebraic varieties. What is the dimension? How many components are there? What is the simplest way to describe the intersection? These are some fundamental questions of algebraic geometry.

The fundamental result in algebraic geometry is the algebra-geometry "dictionary" which gives a precise relationship between geometrical objects and algebraic ones: between varieties in n-dimensional space and radical ideals in the polynomial ring in n variables. The fundamental tools in computational algebraic geometry are Grobner bases for ideals and Buchberger's algorithm. Grobner bases are a generalization of the greatest common divisor of integers. Just as the Euclidean algorithm may be used to compute the gcd, Buchberger's algorithm is used to compute a Grobner basis for an ideal.

In the last few decades, numerous applications of algebraic geometry have been discovered: in coding theory, cryptography, robotics, object recognition, engineering, genomics etc. Some links that show the scope of recent work are: The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Activity Group on Algebraic Geometry, The Special Semester on Grobner Bases and Related Methods; The Thematic Year on Applications of Algebraic Geometry at the Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications; and the work of Bernd Sturmfels. Powerful computational software has also been developed. See for example Sage , Macaulay 2, Singular, and Magma. These computational tools are of great importance in application.

Required Materials

Cox, Little, O'Shea Ideals, Varieties, and Algorithms: An Introduction to Computational Algebraic Geometry and Commutative Algebra 2nd Ed., Springer-Verlag, 1997, or 3rd edition 2007.

William A. Stein et al. Sage Mathematics Software The Sage Development Team, 2011,

SDSU Sage Tutorial

The text is a well written book that is one of the standard references in computational algebraic geometry. I will cover the core material on Grobner bases (chapters 1-3), the algebra-geometry dictionary (chapter 4) and, in less detail, functions on a variety (chapter 7), and projective space (chapter 8). Student interest will also guide the course.

Sage is an open source mathematics software package that incorporates numerous other open-source packages into a unified package. The Sage tutorial will help you get started.


A good understanding of the basics of groups, rings and fields (Math 521A and 521B is enough). In particular, I recommend you review the following topics. Take a look at my webpage for Math 521 A. The book by Hungerford is a great reference. Review Chapters 1,2,4,5,3,6 in that order.