This workshop addresses the broad class of imaging problems in the life sciences that rely on shape or geometry to characterize biological processes and parameters. Of course, the strategy of observing shape and its relationships to biology is a classical undertaking, but in recent years, the availability of 3D imaging and better computational tools has opened up new possibilities for systematic, quantitative analyses of biological shape. This, in turn, has resulted in new demands for more fundamental approaches, based in mathematics, for quantifying and analyzing geometric objects. The problem of quantifying shapes arises in clinical science, where the shapes of neurological or musculoskeletal structures are thought to be related to growth, function, pathology, and degeneration. More recently, computational strategies for shape analysis have become widespread throughout the life sciences, with compelling applications in anthropology, cell and tissue biology, botany, etc.
The mathematical contributions to shape analysis have resulted in new tools for modeling or characterizing shapes and for analyzing both shape dynamics and the statistics of populations of shapes. However, the applications of these methods are typically limited by somewhat strong assumptions about the classes of shapes, such as smoothness, correspondence, and homogeneity or underlying simplifications in morphogenetic processes. This workshop focuses on the frontiers of this technology with an eye toward new applications, such as cell biology and biological morphogenesis, which have yet to benefit from robust, comprehensive approaches. Of particular interest are more general tools for handling nonmanifold shapes, such as networks or trees, as well as tools that can handle relatively heterogeneous collections of objects, such as those seen in cell or tissue biology. Also important is the analysis of dynamic shapes as in morphogenesis and regeneration, and the links to other data such as lineage, genomics, and proteomics. Participants will consist of life scientists with compelling scientific and clinical examples, engineers with computational tools for shape analysis, and mathematicians with insights into fundamental approaches for representing and quantifying shape.