Date of Award

December 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Chris Hruska

Committee Members

Craig Guilbault, Boris Okun, Fredric Ancel, Peter Hinow


In the first part of this dissertation, we generalize the concept of divergence of finitely generated groups by introducing the upper and lower relative divergence of a finitely generated group with respect to a subgroup. Upper relative divergence generalizes Gersten's notion of divergence, and lower relative divergence generalizes a definition of Cooper-Mihalik. While the lower divergence of Cooper-Mihalik can only be linear or exponential, relative lower divergence can be any polynomial or exponential function. In this dissertation, we examine the relative divergence (both upper and lower) of a group with respect to a normal subgroup or a cyclic subgroup. We also explore relative divergence of $\CAT(0)$ groups and relatively hyperbolic groups with respect to various subgroups to better understand geometric properties of these groups.

In the second part of this dissertation, we answer the question of Behrstock and Dru\c{t}u about the existence of Morse geodesics in $\CAT(0)$ spaces with divergence function strictly greater than $r^n$ and strictly less than $r^{n+1}$, where $n$ is an integer greater than $1$. We show that for each real number $s>2$, there is a $\CAT(0)$ space $X$ with a proper and cocompact action of some finitely generated group such that $X$ contains a Morse bi-infinite geodesic with the divergence equivalent to $r^s$.

Included in

Mathematics Commons