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Computer Science Professor Awarded Grant to Study Cooperative Behavior

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Cooperation, symbolized by a handshake.

A computer science professor at the University of New Mexico has received a $450,000 grant to study how cooperative behavior emerges in complex systems.

Credit: Keene Trial Consulting

University of New Mexico computer science professor Melanie Moses has received a six-year, $450,000 grant to study how cooperative behavior emerges in complex systems.

"We'd like to be able to develop a theory of how cooperation emerges that's generalizable to a lot of different systems, including human systems, where almost everything we do is in some sense cooperative, from transportation infrastructure to food networks," Moses says.

The first phase of the project will involve studying how ants work together in colonies and how T cells work together to fight pathogens, and about the kinds of communication that are most effective in specific circumstances. The researchers will use iAnts, autonomous robots with iPhone brains that were built in a lab, to test how sensing, navigation, and communications behaviors affect collective search success in a variety of real-world environments.

"Computation is key to understanding the nonlinear interactions involved in effective cooperation," Moses says. "Writing down equations isn't sufficient for understanding the interactions among the individuals."

She says the goal of the project is to better understand how individuals work together, whether they are humans in a society or cells in a person's body.

From UNM Newsroom
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