Computational and applied algebraic topology research
I'm interested in problems arising from efforts to use the invariants
of algebraic topology to analyze real data sets. The basic point of
departure is the idea of studying finite metric spaces ("point
clouds") by constructing associated simplicial complexes and looking
at the resulting topological invariants.
Of course, constructing the simplicial complexes typically involves a
choice of feature scale. A very nice recent idea is to develop
homological invariants which encode information across all feature
scales at once (more precisely, which track changes in homological
invariants as the feature scale changes). This is usually denoted
as "persistence" or "persistent topological invariants".
See the Stanford computational
topology page for a comprehensive
overview (and a lot of interesting work in this direction).
My work in this area has three basic directions, carried out with
I. Gal, M. Mandell, and M. Pancia.
Foundations for persistent homotopy theory
A basic principle of modern homotopy theory is that homotopical
information is captured by topologized mapping spaces. In the
simplicial context, the simplicial approximation theorem tells us we
must subdivide the source complex in order to realize all homotopy
classes of maps. By studying maps out of small models of test
complexes (e.g., spheres), subdivision provides a notion of scale.
We develop a version of the simplicial approximation theorem in the
setting of simplicial complexes, adapted for computation of persistent
Quantitative homotopy theory in topological data analysis
joint with Michael A. Mandell
Statistical methods in computational algebraic topology
To interpret the results of computing the persistent homology of a data set, it would be very useful to have access to the tools and language of statistical hypothesis testing. Moreover, a focus on the data set as a sample from an underlying distribution gives us a perspective from which to quantify robust behavior in the face of outlying data points. To this end, we have studied the persistent homology of a metric measure space in terms of a distribution of barcodes associated to samples of a fixed size. The resulting invariants are robust in the sense of being relatively insensitive to large changes in small (in measure) parts of the space.
In addition, we can approximate these invariants and construct confidence intervals for understanding the dependence of the results on sample variation using resampling methods.
Persistent homology for metric measure spaces, and robust statistics for hypothesis testing and confidence intervals
joint with Itamar Gal, Michael Mandell, and Mathew Pancia.
Resampling methods for computing the persistent homology of metric measure spaces
joint with Michael Mandell
Practical computation of persistent homology
Computing persistent homology efficiently for large data sets is a
fundamental question. The number of simplices in Rips and Cech
complexes can grow exponentially in the number of vertices, and
witness complexes suffer the same growth as a function of the number
One approach to resolving this is via simplicial collapse methods. We
have developed a version of this which is compatible with persistent
Simplicial collapse for efficient computation of persistent homology
joint with Itamar Gal