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[Colloquium] Cooperation: A Story of Ants, Robots and Your Own Cells

November 25, 2014

Watch Colloquium: 


  • Date: Tuesday, November 25, 2014
  • Time: 11:00 --- 12:15 PM
  • Place: Dane Smith Hall 125

Abstract: Trillions of ants are crawling across forest canopies, desert sands and urban sidewalks, dominating ecosystems across the globe. Trillions of T cells are crawling through your tissues protecting you from viruses, bacteria and disease. How has cooperation emerged among the ants in your kitchen and the cells in your body, and how can technology mimic the cooperative genius of ant colonies and immune systems?

Using mathematics, computation and experiments, Dr. Melanie Moses' lab works to understand how similar complex structures and behaviors emerge in systems as varied as the cells of your body, transistors on computer chips, and the gobal transportation and communication networks of the modern world. Recently, her group has developed a team of "iAnts". These robots with iPods for brains are designed to evolve cooperative ant-like behaviors that may one day help us mine for minerals on asteriods, find and destroy land mines, or at least pick up the trash.

Bio: Melanie Moses earned a B.S. from Stanford University in Symbolic Systems, an interdisciplinary program in cognition and computation, and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of New Mexico in 2005. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of New Mexico and External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. She continues her interdisciplinary research at the boundaries of Computer Science and Biology with her research lab which includes post docs, and high school, undergraduate and graduate students from Computer Science and Biology. Research in the Moses Lab focuses on computational modeling of complex biological systems, particularly on cooperative search strategies in immune systems and ant colonies. We also apply principles from biology to design computational systems, particularly computer security systems that emulate adaptive immune response and robotic swarms that replicate ant behaviors to perform collective tasks. Dr. Moses co-directs the UNM Program in Interdisciplinary Biological and Biomedical Sciences, co-chaired the Gordon Research Conference on the Metabolic Basis of Ecology, and works with the Santa Fe Institute's Project GUTS to train teachers and pre-college students in computational modeling of complex systems. She is honored to have been a Ford Foundation Dissertation Diversity Fellow and a Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellowship Finalist, and to have received School of Engineering New Faculty Awards for Teaching and Research.