Scott Taylor (Colby College)
The tunnel number of a graph embedded in a 3-dimensional manifold is the fewest number of arcs needed so that the union of the graph with the arcs has handlebody exterior. The behavior of tunnel number with respect to connected sum of knots can vary dramatically, depending on the knots involved. However, a classical theorem of Scharlemann and Schultens says that the tunnel number of a composite knot is at least the number of factors. For theta graphs, trivalent vertex sum is the operation which most closely resembles the connected sum of knots.The analogous theorem of Scharlemann and Schultens no longer holds, however. I will provide a sharp lower bound for the tunnel number of composite theta graphs,using recent work on a new knot invariant which is additive under connected sum and trivalent vertex sum. This is joint work with Maggy Tomova.