Exploring Complexity in Science and Technology from a Santa Fe Institute Perspective - Faculty 2011

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Melanie Mitchell, Professor, Computer Science, Portland State University; External Professor and Science Board member, Santa Fe Institute. Melanie Mitchell received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Michigan in 1990. Since then she has held faculty or professional positions at the University of Michigan, the Santa Fe Institute, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the OGI School of Science and Engineering, and Portland State University.

Melanie has served as Director of the Santa Fe Institute’s Complex Systems Summer School; at Portland State University she teaches, among other courses, Exploring Complexity in Science and Technology.

Her major work is in the areas of analogical reasoning, complex systems, genetic algorithms and cellular automata, and her publications in those fields are frequently cited. She is the author of An Introduction to Genetic Algorithms, a widely known introductory book published by MIT Press in 1996. Her most recent book is Complexity: A Guided Tour named by as one of the 10 best science books of 2009.


David Feldman, Professor, Physics and Astronomy, College of the Atlantic; Co-Director, SFI Complex Systems Summer School, Beijing

Dave's research training is in theoretical physics and mathematics, and his research interests lie in the fields of statistical mechanics and nonlinear dynamics. In particular, his research has examined how one might measure "complexity" or pattern in a mathematical system, and how such complexity is related to disorder. This work can be loosely categorized as belonging to the constellation of research topics often referred to as "chaos and complex systems." In his research, Dave uses both analytic and computational techniques. Dave has authored research papers in journals including Physical Review E, Chaos, Physics Letters A, and Advances in Complex Systems.

As a graduate student at UC-Davis, Dave received several awards in recognition of both teaching and scholarship: The Dissertation Year Fellowship; The Chancellor's Teaching Fellowship; and he was nominated for the Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award. Dave joined the faculty at College of the Atlantic in 1998, where he teaches a wide range of physics and math courses. He also teaches classes that explore connections between science and politics, such as Making the Bomb (about the Manhattan project and atomic weapons), and Gender and Science.


Van Savage, Assistant Professor, Biomathematics, University of California at Los Angeles, former SFI Postdoctoral Fellow

Van is a mathematical biologist with strong interests in ecology, evolution, sleep, and cancer. Savage conducted his graduate training in applied mathematics and theoretical physics under Carl Bender at Washington University in St. Louis. Subsequently, he switched his research focus to problems in physiology and ecology and took a postdoctoral fellowship with Geoffrey West and James Brown at the Santa Fe Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory. His work continued through two appointments at Harvard University as an autonomous postdoctoral fellow at the Bauer Center and as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. His work is among the first to explicitly and mechanistically connect biological scaling theory, based on individual organisms, to ecological and evolutionary dynamics as well as to biomedical problems. This research program has been very productive, culminating in 35 papers thus far that have appeared in Science, Nature, PNAS, The American Naturalist, Ecology Letters, and Physical Review D.


Dr. Robert Axtell, External Professor, Santa Fe Institute, Professor and Chair, George Mason University, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, Department of Computational Social Science

Rob Axtell works at the intersection of economics, behavioral game theory, and multi-agent systems computer science. His most recent research attempts to emerge a macroeconomy from tens of millions of interacting agents. He is Department Chair of the new Department of Computational Social Science at George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia, USA). He teaches courses on agent-based modeling, mathematical modeling, and game theory. His research has been published in "Science," "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA," and leading field journals. Popular accounts have appeared in newspapers, magazines, books, online, on the radio and in museums. His is the developer of Sugarscape, an early attempt to do social science with multi-agent systems, andco-author of "Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up" (MIT Press 1996). Previously, he was a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution (Washington, D.C. USA) and a founding member of the Center on Social and Economic Dynamics there. He holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA).


Dr. Eric Smith, Professor, Santa Fe Institute.

D. Eric Smith received the Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1987, and a Ph.D. in Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1993, with a dissertation on problems in string theory and high-temperature superconductivity. From 1993 to 2000 he worked in physical, nonlinear, and statistical acoustics at the Applied Research Labs: U. T. Austin, and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. From 2000 he has worked at the Santa Fe Institute on problems of self-organization in thermal, chemical, and biological systems. A focus of his current work is the statistical mechanics of the transition from the geochemistry of the early earth to the first levels of biological organization, with some emphasis on the emergence of the metabolic network.