Available student project - Shape signatures for leaves: an application of topological data analysis

Research fields

  • Biophysics
  • Topological and Structural Science
Sample leaf shapes

Project details

Plant leaves take on a remarkable variety of forms and their shape has consequences for their mechanical, thermal, and light-intercepting properties.

Currently, leaf shape is characterized by qualitative descriptors such as “entire”, “lobed”, or “serrated”, and by simple geometric measures such as the ratio of area to perimeter or the radius of the maximal inscribed sphere. 

The goal of this project is to develop more refined quantitative measures of leaf shape using a new mathematical tool called persistent homology.

These new measures will enable biologists to perform more accurate analyses of how genetic variations affect leaf shape, and the resulting changes in leaf function.  

On completion of this project, the student will be skilled in topological data analysis, a widely-applicable approach to discovering structure in many types of data from digital images to medical clinical studies and financial markets. 

Required background

Background and interest in applied mathematics, computational physics, or bioinformatics.

Project suitability

This research project can be tailored to suit students of the following type(s)
  • PhB (2nd or 3rd year)
  • Honours project

Contact supervisor

Robins, Vanessa profile
Fellow
59603

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