Faculty Spotlight: Parker Edwards, Ph.D.

Faculty Spotlight: Parker Edwards, Ph.D.

Using Math to Train Computers

Parker Edwards, Ph.D., said he’s always been interested in science. And from a young age, his teachers told him he needed to learn about the math which would explain all the science – from the spread of disease, to the theory of gravity to other aspects of the natural world. “Math is the common language that people use to talk about these other subjects,” Edwards said. “That’s what got me at an early age.”

Now, an assistant professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, Edwards works as a computational mathematician researching how to use computers to measure shapes and make those computers more efficient. It might sound simple, he said, but in the modern era, artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms start by figuring out the geometry of a given data set. “There's still quite a lot of math and computational work to do more interesting data analysis,” he said. As a scientist, he “likes the freedom to be able to think genuinely about new ideas and things that haven't been done before.”

For instance, Edwards has worked with images of hundreds of cells to help scientists identify shape differences in mutant cells compared to normal cells. “The problem there is that even human experts might not be able to just label what the difference is, so you really need a computer to measure the differences in shape,” he said. If you’re not careful, Edwards added, you need millions — and millions — of pictures or pieces of data labeled by humans in order to train computers. “One of our biggest ways to contribute as mathematicians is trying to lower the number of resources that are required in order to get the same types of results,” he said.

Edwards earned graduate degrees in mathematics and foundations of computer science: a master's from the University of Oxford in 2016 and a doctorate at the University of Florida in 2020. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow for three years at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana before Florida Atlantic.

He plans to continue working on new mathematical techniques and applying them to scientific data while at Florida Atlantic. That includes both new applications and expanding on prior topics, such as his work with robotics and using geometric computations to help policymakers make redistricting decisions. “With modern computational resources,” Edwards said, “there's just an enormous amount of work that's left to be done in order to figure out things that we wouldn't otherwise be able to figure out in the sciences and other types of applications without better methods.”

If you would like more information, please contact us at dorcommunications@fau.edu.