Speaker: Chad Topaz, Williams College
Time/room: Tuesday, July 18, at 5:15 Potter Auditorium, Rowe Building, Dalhousie University, Halifax

Followed by reception and poster session.

Title: Public lecture: Swarms, Models, and the Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics
Abstract: Schools of fish, flocks of birds, herds of mammals, and even colonies of bacteria all show behavior we call ‘swarming’, but these groups are difficult to understand biologically and mathematically. I will give an overview of how social and biological interactions lead to swarming behavior. I will also discuss how mathematical modeling (describing the real world with mathematics) can be used to study locust swarms, which are the most massive and destructive swarms on Earth. Swarming is related to many phenomena of collective behavior in nature and society, where seemingly independent objects — like neurons, metronomes, and even people — start to act in the same way. This public lecture will be interactive and accessible; no technical knowledge is required.

Biography. Professor of Mathematics Chad Topaz (A.B. Harvard, Ph.D. Northwestern) is an applied mathematician at Williams College. A versatile investigator, Chad examines problems in biology, chemistry, physics, and the social sciences through several lenses, including data science, modeling, analysis, topology, geometric dynamical systems, numerical simulation, and experiment… all with an eye towards understanding and predicting complex behavior. Passionate about scientific communication and discourse, Chad has delivered over 100 talks at colleges, universities, and scientific meetings, and has co-organized numerous interdisciplinary minisymposia and workshops on chemical reaction diffusion systems, biological swarming, agent-based models, and related topics. His honors include a New Directions Research Professorship at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (the first given to a liberal arts college faculty member), a Kavli Frontiers Fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences, a Board of Trustees Award from Macalester College, and the 2013 Outstanding Paper Award of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Chad’s teaching career is built on an intense passion for human learning, scrupulous attention to learners’ needs and challenges, and the belief that education is both an art and a science. An avid follower of scholarly research in education studies and educational psychology, he has won UCLA’s Robert Sorgenfrey Distinguished Teaching Award in mathematics and Macalester College’s Rossmann Excellence in Teaching Award. One of Chad’s greatest fulfillments has been the melding of his teaching and research lives in the sphere of undergraduate research. He has advised nearly 100 capstone, independent study, honors, and summer research experiences, with over 40% of these for women and members of other underrepresented groups.

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