The Principles of Complexity: Life, Scale, and Civilization - Speaker Bios Aug 7

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Vijay Balasubramanian, University of Pennsylvania
I grew up in India and Indonesia and attended high school at the Jakarta International School. I have B.S. degrees in Physics and Computer Science from M.I.T. I received an M.S. in Computer Science from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from Princeton University. I have been a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows and a Fellow-at-Large of the Santa Fe Institute. I am presently the Merriam Term Professor of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania where I have received the Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching. I am a Penn Fellow for 2011 and am a recipient of a fellowship from the Fondation Pierre Gilles de Gennes. My work in particle physics has focused on basic questions concerning the nature of space and time. I have worked on the origin of the thermodynamics of gravitating systems and the apparent loss of quantum information in the presence of black holes. My work has shown ways in which the familiar smooth structure of space-time can emerge as a long-distance effective description of more complex underlying physical constructs. My work has also explored how the matter and forces whose existence is known from laboratory experiments and astrophysical measurements arise from a fundamental unified theory of forces, matter and spacetime. My interests in the nature of information, and the ways it is produced, processed and transmitted have led to my present research in neuroscience. My ongoing work shows how numerous structural and functional aspects of the organization of sensory systems can be understood as adaptations to efficiently process the information in natural stimuli, subject to the metabolic, spatial, temporal and noise constraints inherent in biological computation. I aim to develop these ideas into a framework for explaining the structural and functional organization of cortical circuitry. I have also written on problems in statistical inference and machine learning, and in particular on "Occam's Razor", i.e., the tradeoff between simplicity and accuracy in quantitative models.

James Brown, University of New Mexico and SFI External Professor
James Brown grew up in upstate New York, attended Cornell University, and received his Ph. D. from the University of Michigan. He has held faculty appointments at the University of California at Los Angeles, University of Utah, University of Arizona, University of New Mexico, and Santa Fe Institute. He is known for his research in desert ecocosystems, biogeography, ecological theory, and biological scaling. He is considered “the father of macroecology,” a large-scale, statistical, informatics-based discipline that offers powerful insights into contemporary problems of global change and human ecology. He has trained numerous undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs, many of whom now hold influential positions in academia, NGOs, government agencies, and the private sector. He has received several honors and awards, including election to the National Academy of Sciences, the Odum Award for teaching and the MacArthur Award for research from the Ecological Society of America, the Merriam Award from the American Society of Mammalogists, the Marsh Award from the British Ecological Society, and the Grinnell Medal from the University of California at Berkeley.

Gary Feinman, The Field Museum
Gary Feinman, Curator of Mesoamerican Anthropology at Chicago’s Field Museum, co-directs two international archaeological field projects. His principal research area is Mesoamerica, where he currently leads house excavations at the Mitla Fortress. This is the third Classic period (AD 200-900) settlement where he has led residential excavations (following Ejutla and El Palmillo). At the most overarching level, this research investigates the Classic period economy in the Valley of Oaxaca, the functioning and eventual collapse of the early city centered at Monte Albán, and the reorganization of the region in the subsequent Postclassic period.

For the last 17 years, Feinman also has helped direct a systematic settlement pattern survey of a coastal basin in eastern Shandong, China. This study focuses on the rise of hierarchical polities in the region, the eventual incorporation of this area into empires centered to the west, and the documentation of settlement and demographic change in this basin over millennia.

Feinman’s field studies have underpinned comparative analyses of (and publications on) leadership, cooperation, inequality, preindustrial economics, and the complex relations between humans and their environments over time. He is an AAAS Fellow and was awarded the Presidential Recognition Award by the Society for American Archaeology.

Eric Klopfer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Eric Klopfer is Professor and Director of the Scheller Teacher Education Program and The Education Arcade at MIT. Klopfer's research focuses on the development and use of computer games and simulations for building understanding of science and complex systems. His research explores simulations and games on desktop computers as well as mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Klopfer's work combines the construction of new software tools with implementation, research, and development of new pedagogical supports that transition the use of these tools to broader use in formal and informal learning. He is the co-author of the book, Adventures in Modeling: Exploring Complex, Dynamic Systems with StarLogo, and author of Augmented Learning: Research and Design of Mobile Educational Games from MIT Press. He has a new book from MIT Press coming out this year about the intersection of academia and private industry around technology-enabled classroom innovations. Klopfer is also the director of The Education Arcade, which is advancing the development and use of games in K-12 education, as well as co-founder and President of the non-profit Learning Games Network.

David Krakauer, University of Wisconsin, SFI External Professor
David C. Krakauer is Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and Profes¬sor of Genetics, both at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and External Pro¬fessor at the Santa Fe Institute. He was previously chair of the faculty and a resi¬dent professor at the Santa Fe Institute. Dr. Krakauer has been a visiting fellow at the Genomics Frontiers Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and a Sage Fellow at the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of Santa Bar¬bara. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, DARPA, as well as by the Packard Foundation, The McDonnell Foundation, the Kent School of Intelligence Analysis, the Templeton Foundation, Lockheed Martin and several family foundations and trusts. In 2012 Dr Krakauer was included in the Wired Magazine Smart List as one of 50 people who will change the World.

Sir Christopher Llewellyn Smith, Oxford University
Chris Llewellyn Smith is Director of Energy Research, Oxford University, and President of the Council of SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East). He has chaired the Council of ITER, the global fusion energy project, directed the UK's fusion programme, and served as Provost and President of University College London, Director General of CERN (1994-1998, when the Large Hadron Collider was approved and construction started), and Chairman of Oxford Physics. His theoretical contributions to the ‘standard model’ of particle physics were recognised by his election to the Royal Society in 1984. He has written and spoken widely on science funding, international scientific collaboration and energy issues, and served on many advisory bodies nationally and internationally, including the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology (1989-92). His scientific contributions and leadership have been recognised by awards and honours in seven countries on three continents.

Kurt Squire, University of Wisconsin
Kurt Squire is a professor of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a leader of the Games + Learning + Society theme in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. Squire's research focuses on systemic education change with digital media, with a particular emphasis on interactive, immersive simulation (or game) technology. Squire is the author of over 75 scholarly publications and recently published Video Games and Learning through Columbia Teacher's Press and edited, along with Constance Steinkuehler and Sasha Barab, Games + Learning + Society, published by Cambridge University. Squire is also co-founder and Vice President of the Learning Games Network. Squire is formerly a Montessori Teacher, a columnist (with Henry Jenkins) for Computer Games magazine, and co-founder of, a leading games culture blog.