Abstract:
In this work, we study the asymptotic geometry of the mapping class group and Teichmueller space. We introduce tools for analyzing the geometry of `projection' maps from these spaces to curve complexes of subsurfaces; from this we obtain information concerning the topology of their asymptotic cones. We deduce several applications of this analysis. One of which is that the asymptotic cone of the mapping class group of any surface is tree-graded in the sense of Drutu and Sapir; this tree-grading has several consequences including answering a question of Drutu and Sapir concerning relatively hyperbolic groups. Another application is a generalization of the result of Brock and Farb that for low complexity surfaces Teichmueller space, with the Weil-Petersson metric, is delta-hyperbolic. Although for higher complexity surfaces these spaces are not delta-hyperbolic, we establish the presence of previously unknown negative curvature phenomena in the mapping class group and Teichmueller space for arbitrary surfaces.

Abstract:
In this paper we explore relationships between divergence and thick groups, and with the same techniques we estimate lengths of shortest conjugators. We produce examples, for every positive integer n, of CAT(0) groups which are thick of order n and with polynomial divergence of order n+1, both these phenomena are new. With respect to thickness, these examples show the non-triviality at each level of the thickness hierarchy defined by Behrstock-Drutu-Mosher. With respect to divergence our examples resolve questions of Gromov and Gersten (the divergence questions were also recently and independently answered by Macura. We also provide general tools for obtaining both lower and upper bounds on the divergence of geodesics and spaces, and we give the definitive lower bound for Morse geodesics in the CAT(0) spaces, generalizing earlier results of Kapovich-Leeb and Bestvina-Fujiwara. In the final section, we turn to the question of bounding the length of the shortest conjugators in several interesting classes of groups. We obtain linear and quadratic bounds on such lengths for classes of groups including 3-manifold groups and mapping class groups (the latter gives new proofs of corresponding results of Masur-Minsky in the pseudo-Anosov case and Tao in the reducible case).

Abstract:
We give a group theoretic characterization of geodesics with superlinear divergence in the Cayley graph of a right-angled Artin group A(G) with connected defining graph G. We use this to determine when two points in an asymptotic cone of A(G) are separated by a cut-point. As an application, we show that if G does not decompose as the join of two subgraphs, then A(G) has an infinite-dimensional space of non-trivial quasimorphisms. By the work of Burger and Monod, this leads to a superrigidity theorem for homomorphisms from lattices into right-angled Artin groups.

Abstract:
In this paper we investigate the higher dimensional divergence functions of mapping class groups of surfaces and of CAT(0)--groups. We show that, for mapping class groups of surfaces, these functions exhibit phase transitions at the rank (as measured by thrice the genus plus the number of punctures minus 3). We also provide inductive constructions of CAT(0)--spaces with co-compact group actions, for which the divergence below the rank is (exactly) a polynomial function of our choice, with degree arbitrarily large compared to the dimension.

Abstract:
In this paper we provide a framework for the study of isoperimetric problems in finitely generated group, through a combinatorial study of universal covers of compact simplicial complexes. We show that, when estimating filling functions, one can restrict to simplicial spheres of particular shapes, called "round" and "unfolded", provided that a bounded quasi-geodesic combing exists. We prove that the problem of estimating higher dimensional divergence as well can be restricted to round spheres. Applications of these results include a combinatorial analogy of the Federer--Fleming inequality for finitely generated groups, the construction of examples of $CAT(0)$--groups with higher dimensional divergence equivalent to $x^d$ for every degree d [arXiv:1305.2994], and a proof of the fact that for bi-combable groups the filling function above the quasi-flat rank is asymptotically linear [Behrstock-Drutu].

Abstract:
Let Mod(S) be the extended mapping class group of a surface S. For S the twice-punctured torus, we show that there exists an isomorphism of finite index subgroups of Mod(S) which is not the restriction of an inner automorphism. For S a torus with at least three punctures, we show that every injection of a finite index subgroup of Mod(S) into Mod(S) is the restriction of an inner automorphism; this completes a program begun by Irmak. For all of the above surfaces, we establish the co-Hopf property for finite index subgroups of Mod(S).

Abstract:
Let G be a group acting geometrically on a CAT(0) cube complex X. We prove first that G is hyperbolic relative to the collection P of subgroups if and only if the simplicial boundary of X is the disjoint union of a nonempty discrete set, together with a pairwise-disjoint collection of subcomplexes corresponding, in the appropriate sense, to elements of P. As a special case of this result is a new proof, in the cubical case, of a Theorem of Hruska--Kleiner regarding Tits boundaries of relatively hyperbolic CAT(0) spaces. Second, we relate the existence of cut-points in asymptotic cones of a cube complex X to boundedness of the 1-skeleton of the boundary of X. We deduce characterizations of thickness and strong algebraic thickness of a group G acting properly and cocompactly on the CAT(0) cube complex X in terms of the structure of, and nature of the G-action on, the boundary of X. Finally, we construct, for each n,k, infinitely many quasi-isometry types of group G such that G is strongly algebraically thick of order n, has polynomial divergence of order n+1, and acts properly and cocompactly on a k-dimensional CAT(0) cube complex.

Abstract:
We describe the quasi-isometric classification of fundamental groups of irreducible non-geometric 3-manifolds which do not have "too many" arithmetic hyperbolic geometric components, thus completing the quasi-isometric classification of 3--manifold groups in all but a few exceptional cases.

Abstract:
We show that the fundamental groups of any two closed irreducible non-geometric graph-manifolds are quasi-isometric. This answers a question of Kapovich and Leeb. We also classify the quasi-isometry types of fundamental groups of graph-manifolds with boundary in terms of certain finite two-colored graphs. A corollary is the quasi-isometry classification of Artin groups whose presentation graphs are trees. In particular any two right-angled Artin groups whose presentation graphs are trees of diameter at least 3 are quasi-isometric, answering a question of Bestvina; further, this quasi-isometry class does not include any other right-angled Artin groups.

Abstract:
Suppose a group $G$ is quasi-isometric to a free product of a finite set $S$ of finitely generated abelian groups; let $S'$ denote the set of ranks of the free abelian parts of the groups in $S$. Then $G$ is commensurable with the free product of $\Z$ with a $\Z^n$ for each $n$ occurring in $S'$.