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Drs. David Letscher and Erin Chambers have been awarded $270,000 from the NSF to use topological tools to study the architecture of plant root systems. This grant is part of a larger collaborative project involving Dr. Tao Ju in the Computer Science department at Washington University and Dr. Christopher Topp at the Danforth Plant Science Center. 

3D image of corn rootsThree-dimensional image of a corn root system

The project will study 3D imaging of corn and rice in natural growing environment and develop several tools to study their structure.  One of these tools will attempt to remove "topological noise" from the structure to give clean input to algorithms that will quantify structural characteristics of the roots.  These characteristics will be studied in parallel with a DNA analysis of the plants to determine how these plant root features are genetically determined.  As part of this project, the department will be hiring a postdoctoral researcher in the 2019-20 academic year.