Exploratory data analysis with non-linear and missing data in geochemistry

  • Martin Schröder

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Exploratory analysis of data seeks to find common patterns to gain insights into the structure and distribution of the data. In geochemistry it is a valuable means to gain insights into the complicated processes making up a petroleum system. Typically linear visualisation methods like principal components analysis, linked plots, or brushing are used. These methods can not directly be employed when dealing with missing data and they struggle to capture global non-linear structures in the data, however they can do so locally. This thesis discusses a complementary approach based on a non-linear probabilistic model. The generative topographic mapping (GTM) enables the visualisation of the effects of very many variables on a single plot, which is able to incorporate more structure than a two dimensional principal components plot. The model can deal with uncertainty, missing data and allows for the exploration of the non-linear structure in the data. In this thesis a novel approach to initialise the GTM with arbitrary projections is developed. This makes it possible to combine GTM with algorithms like Isomap and fit complex non-linear structure like the Swiss-roll. Another novel extension is the incorporation of prior knowledge about the structure of the covariance matrix. This extension greatly enhances the modelling capabilities of the algorithm resulting in better fit to the data and better imputation capabilities for missing data. Additionally an extensive benchmark study of the missing data imputation capabilities of GTM is performed. Further a novel approach, based on missing data, will be introduced to benchmark the fit of probabilistic visualisation algorithms on unlabelled data. Finally the work is complemented by evaluating the algorithms on real-life datasets from geochemical projects.
    Date of AwardOct 2009
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorIan T. Nabney (Supervisor) & Dan Cornford (Supervisor)


    • generative topographic mapping
    • data imputation
    • data visualisation
    • covariance matrix
    • chemometrics

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