Neurons, Lions and Electoral Boundaries – New Topological Research

Monday 22 August 2022

Congratulations to Associate Professor Vanessa Robins, co-editor of a new book, Research In Computational Topology 2, part of the Association for Women in Mathematics series.

The book comprises 12 peer-reviewed papers that came out of a computational topology workshop in 2019, spanning neuron connections in the brain, graphs of lions and contamination, and electoral boundary shapes.

“The workshop was incredibly rewarding. I had really smart people in my group working through questions we were interested in – it was the best week ever!” said Dr Robins, who was a leader in one of the four groups.

Dr Robins did a PhD in computational topology in the nineties and has seen the community blossom, from early beginnings as an email list of women working in the field.

“It’s been a nice supportive community, we’ve built professional networks with no political manoeuvring.” Dr Robins said.

Today the community is a powerhouse of research, with Springer selecting it to be part of the Association for Women in Mathematics series.

“After the workshop, the new research groups are encouraged to apply for funding to continue their collaboration.  

“It’s helped us stay connected with the research community during COVID.”

Although she prepared ideas in advance so that the workshop would hit the ground running, Dr Robins found there was great input from students with their own research questions.

“It was a good growth experience for group leaders as well as junior members.” she said.

“It works especially well for a theory domain, to sit in a room together working on research questions.”

Personally Dr Robins has had two publications come out of the intensive week long workshop, one reconciling differences in topology models.

“When you quantify topology in an image by building a model, there are two ways to go about it, that sometimes give different answers.”

“It began as a question about which computer code to use, but we ended up requiring some quite deep pure maths.”

Research In Computational Topology 2 can be found at the Springer website.

 

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