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Complexity is the Focus of April 20-21 Conference

April 11, 2006 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The U.S. health care system, ant colonies and human speech -- even the 2005 World Series champion Chicago White Sox -- are all examples of complex systems, in which outcomes cannot be predicted because each system’s performance is more than the sum of its parts.

Prominent experts will discuss important issues facing researchers in the emerging science of complexity April 20-21 at Northwestern University as part of the first Complexity Conference held by the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO).

The free conference will be from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20, and from 8:30 a.m. to noon Friday, April 21, in the James L. Allen Center, 2169 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus. Designed to stimulate discussion and collaboration across traditional boundaries, the event is open to the Northwestern and Chicago-area research communities.

Three keynote speakers from different disciplines -- medicine, engineering and linguistics -- will use plain English to deliver an overview of a complexity problem. After each talk, two other speakers will respond by discussing how they are tackling some of the problem’s challenges. Audience discussion will conclude each session.

Keynote speakers and their topics are:

• Timothy G. Buchman, Harry Edison Professor of Surgery, professor of anesthesiology and of medicine, and chief of the Burn, Trauma and Surgical Care Section of the Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine: “From Discovery to Medical Practice: Challenges and Implications” (Thursday, April 20, 9:30 a.m.-noon)

• Richard M. Murray, professor of control and dynamical systems, California Institute of Technology: “Self-Organization, Self-Assembly and Control of Complex Systems” (Thursday, April 20, 2-4:30 p.m.)

• Mari Ostendorf, visiting professor, University of Karlsruhe, Germany: “Speech and Music Systems: Dynamics, Variation and Emerging Technology” (Friday, April 21, 9-11:30 a.m.)

Mitra J. Hartmann, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern, will be one of the speakers in the second session. In addition, nine Northwestern doctoral students will present their complex systems-related research at the conference; six will display posters, and three will deliver an oral presentation of their work from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. April 20.

Established in 2004, the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems stimulates path-breaking research of complex systems across traditional boundaries with membership representing the fields of engineering, business, natural sciences, education, medicine, law and the social sciences.

Registration for the Complexity Conference is required and can be completed at <http://www.northwestern.edu/nico/complexity-conference/>. For more information, send e-mail to complexity-conference@northwestern.edu.

Topics: Campus Life