Wednesday, May 08, 2013

New projects, new software and a finished thesis

It's been a while since I last posted about my research, so I felt that it might be time for a bit of an update. I've been at Surrey Space Centre for almost four years now, and my PhD studentship is most definitely drawing to a close.

Most importantly, I finally managed to complete and submit my thesis, Urban Damage Detection in High Resolution SAR Images and my viva voce examination will take place on 21st June. After having spent so long fretting about whether my research was "good enough", it's bizarre to find myself actually feeling quietly confident about the exam. On the other hand, I don't know how long that strange feeling of confidence will last!

My supervisor advised me not to publish the submitted version of my thesis, on the basis that the exam is quite soon and it would be better to take the opportunity incorporate any requested corrections before publication (and that it would be embarrassing if I fail the exam and the examiners ask me to submit a new thesis). However, I will definitely be making sure that I make it available online as soon as I have the final version ready.

On the other hand, I have already published the source code for the software developed during my PhD and described in my thesis. The git repositories have been publicly accessible on github for some time, and I've also more recently uploaded release tarballs to figshare. I've published three software packages:

  • ssc-ridge-tools (git repo) contains the ridgetool program for extracting bright curvilinear features from TIFF images, and a bunch of general tools for working with them (e.g. exporting them to graphical file formats, manually classifying them, or printing statistics).
  • ssc-ridge-classifiers (git repo) contains two different tools for classifying the bright lines extracted by ridgetool. They are designed for the task of identifying which bright lines look like the double reflection lines that are characteristic of SAR images of urban buildings.
  • ssc-urban-change (git repo) contains a tool for using curvilinear features and pre- and post-event SAR images to plot change maps.

All the programs in the packages contain manpages, README files, etc. Note that they require x86 or x86-64 Linux (they just won't work on Windows). If you wish to understand what the various algorithms are and (probably more importantly) how they can be used, you should probably read Earthquake Damage Detection in Urban Areas using Curvilinear Features.

In a follow-on from my main PhD research, Astrium GEO have very kindly agreed to give me some TerraSAR-X images of the city of Khash, Iran, where there was a very big earthquake about a month ago on April 16th. Hopefully, I'll be able to publish some preliminary results of applying my tools to that data shortly (it depends heavily on when I actually receive the image products)! The acquisition had been scheduled for 7th May, so hopefully I will be hearing from them soon. The current plan is to publish a short research report in PLoS Currents Disasters, even if the results are negative.

I've recently been working on a side project using multispectral imagery from the UK-DMC2 satellite to try and detect water quality changes in Lake Chilwa, Malawi during January 2013. It's been nice to have a change from staring at SAR data, and I've also had the opportunity to learn some new skills. This was particularly interesting, as it forms part of a MILES multidisciplinary project involving people from all over the University of Surrey. One of the things that I produced for this project was an image showing the change in Normalised Difference Vegetation Index between 3rd January and 17th January. Later this month, I'm also hoping to publish some brief reports describing the exact processing steps used: I'm not sure how much immediate use they will be, but might provide some pointers to other people trying to use DMC data in the future.

The only thing that I'm feeling particularly concerned about at the moment is the status of my IEEE Transactions journal paper, which seems to be taking forever to get through its peer review process. It's almost 11 months since I submitted it, and I really hope that it's at least accepted for publication by the time I have my viva.

All in all, though, my PhD research is more-or-less tied up, and I've produced a bunch of potentially interesting/useful outputs. Does that make it a success?

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