Professor Heather Harrington

Professor Heather Harrington

Supernumerary Fellow


I obtained my PhD in 2010 from Imperial College London, and was a postdoc in Theoretical Systems Biology group (2010-2013). In 2013, I joined the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford. In October 2023 I became a director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute in Oxford.

Research Interests

My research focuses on the problem of reconciling models and data by extracting information about the structure of models and the shape of data. To develop these methods, we combine techniques from a variety of disciplines such as computational algebraic geometry and computational topology, statistics, optimization, network theory, and systems biology.

Keywords: Mathematical modelling, nonlinear algebra and computational topology for applications to data science, systems biology and medicine

I always enjoyed mathematics, but also was curious about medicine. I learned that it is possible to combine mathematics to study biology and medicine in university, and continued these directions, specifically reconciling mathematical models and data. If we can understand how biology works at the genetic/molecular/cellular scale, as well as what goes wrong in disease, then we may be able to use mathematics to help design drug therapies.

Awards and Distinctions

  • Royal Society University Research Fellowship, London Mathematical Society Whithead Prize (2018), Adams Prize (2019).

Recent Publications

  • Stratifying multiparameter persistent homology. Harrington HA, Otter N, Schenck H, Tillmann U (2019) SIAM J. Appl. Algebra Geometry, 3(3), 439–471.
  • Tensor clustering with algebraic constraints gives interpretable groups of crosstalk mechanisms in breast cancer (2019) Seigal A, Beguerisse-Díaz M, Schoeberl B, Niepel M, Harrington HA. J R Soc Interface, Feb 28;16(151):20180661
  • Roadmap for the computation of persistent homology. Otter N, Porter MA, Tillmann U, Grindrod P, Harrington HA (2017) EPJ Data Science, 6(1) 17.
  • Persistent homology of time-dependent functional networks constructed from coupled time series. Stolz BJ, Harrington HA, Porter MA (2017) Chaos, 27, 047410.
  • Algebraic systems biology: a case study for the Wnt pathway. Gross E, Harrington HA, Rosen Z (2016) Sturmfels B. (2016) Bull Math Biol 78(1):21-51.