Biographical Information

Professor a the Institute of Science and Technology Austria 2009-present
Visiting Professor at the Berlin Mathematical School 2007-08
Visiting Professor in the Departement d'Informatique at the Ecole Normale Superieur May-June 2007
Moore Distinguished Scholar in Computer Science at the California Institute of Technology Spring 2006
Professor of Mathematics at Duke University 2004-present
Visiting Professor at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Spring 2002
Arts and Sciences Professor of Computer Science at Duke University 1999-present
Founder, Principal, and Director, Raindrop Geomagic 1996-present
Visiting Professor in Computer Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 1994-95
Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 1985-99
Assistant Professor in Information Processing at the Graz University of Technology 1981-85

I always loved mathematics and in particular geometry and topology. My next favorite subject is philosophy. I am still curious why we are here. I have no illustions that we will ever know, but at least I would like to understand what we are all doing here.

My research evolved from algorithms and data structures to computational geometry and computational topology. It might sometimes not be obvious, but I use applications to determine the direction of my research, keeping in mind that the most applicable of all is a good theory.

I was born and grew up in Austria. I visited the United States in 1985 and made an overnight decision to leave Austria and come to the US, possibly for a few years. With no time left for planning I accepted the offer from the University of Illinois. I have stayed there until 1999 when I moved to my current position at Duke University.

My spare time interests include listening to music, playing with my daughter, and reading books on mathematics, philosophy, politics, biology, neurobiology, and on rare occasons a novel.

Ping Fu and I started a company in April 1996. This turns out to be more demanding than we believed although we were warned.
I decided to join the new Institute of Science and Technology in Austria, near Vienna, starting August 2009. This promises to be challenging and invigorating.

Post-docs and Students

I am currently working with three post-doctoral fellows. Chao Chen graduated in 2009 from the Computer Science Department at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He works on topological algorithms, including optimal cycle structures and applications to computer vision. Michael Kerber graduated in 2009 from the Computer Science Department at the Saarland University. He is interested in fast algorithms for topology and images. Olga Symonova received her doctorate from the University of Trento and was postdoc at Georgia Tech working on biologically motivated shape modeling questions. She continues her work on the growth modeling of agricultural root systems. I am advising four graduate students at various stages of their program. Brittany Fasy looks at curves in three and higher dimensions as well as the heat equation through the lense of persistence diagrams and vineyards. Ying Zheng works on algorithm for symmetry in images and shapes.


In the year 2005, we started two DARPA funded projects. The first is on tda, short for ``algebraic topological tools for high dimensional data analysis and the study of families of shapes''. Under its umbrella we develop algorithms for homology groups, persistence, Morse complexes and more. The second is on funbio, short for ``microstates to macrodynamics: a new mathematics of biology''. It aims at deepening our understanding of broad biological questions through the use of novel mathematical methods. Data analysis with algebraic topology is one of the new methods. I am also involved in biology projects lead by Philip Benfey. In particular, an NSF funded project on identifying genes for root system architecture traits and an NIH funded center for systems biology.


During the Fall and Winter of 2010/11, I co-teach a course on Computational Topology with Paul Bendich at IST Austria.


The Alpha Shapes software is designed to analyze point data in three dimensions. It specializes on molecular conformations, where a molecule is given as a set of atoms and each atom is a sphere given by its center (a point) and radius. For surface reconstruction I recommend Geomagic Wrap instead. I used that software to create the 180 wrapped tubes, which you can download in .stl format and print if you have a layered technology machine.


I list my publications in reverse chronological order.

Contact Information

Home Page:
Office Location: D203 LSRC
Phone: (919) 660-6545
Fax: (919) 660-6519

   Herbert Edelsbrunner
   Duke University
   Computer Science Department
   Box 90129
   Durham, NC 27708 

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