Fast and Flexible Group Decision-Making

  • Speaker
  • Naomi Ehrich Leonard, Ph.D.Chair and Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University
Date & Time


Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium
160 5th Ave
New York, NY 10010 United States

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Doors open: 5:30 p.m. (No entrance before 5:30 p.m.)

Lecture: 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Admittance closes at 6:20 p.m.)

The 2024 lecture series in biology is “Dynamics of Life”; Motion, change and interaction are constants of biology. They are ubiquitous, linking life’s various scales from fluid flows inside cells to the flocking patterns of birds. In these lectures, scientists will discuss their exploration of the dynamical mechanisms at the core of biological phenomena through the lenses of theory, simulation and observation.
2024 Lecture Series Themes

Biology: Dynamics of Life

Mathematics and Computer Science: Machine Learning in the Natural Sciences

Neuroscience and Autism Science: The Social Brain

Physics: Atmospheres: Earth to Exoplanets

About Presidential Lectures

Presidential Lectures are free public colloquia centered on four main themes: Biology, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Neuroscience and Autism Science. These curated, high-level scientific talks feature leading scientists and mathematicians and are intended to foster discourse and drive discovery among the broader NYC-area research community. We invite those interested in the topic to join us for this weekly lecture series.

A wide range of animals live and move in groups. Many animals do better in groups than alone when, for example, foraging for food, migrating and avoiding predators. A key to group success is social interaction. Less well understood is how a group with no centralized control is capable of the fast and flexible decision-making required to carry out its tasks in an environment with uncertainty, variability and dynamic change.

In this Presidential Lecture, Naomi Ehrich Leonard will present a model of group decision-making dynamics that reveals the fundamental importance of nonlinearity, feedback and social interaction structure. The model provides new insights into fast and flexible decision-making: how indecision can be broken as fast as it becomes costly and how sensitivity to stimuli can be tuned as the context and environment change.

About the Speaker

Leonard uses tools from feedback control and nonlinear dynamics to study and design the dynamics of interacting agents such as animal groups and robot teams. She develops analytically tractable mathematical models to examine feedback, interconnection and heterogeneity in the behavior, learning and resilience of groups in changing environments. She is a MacArthur Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the International Federation of Automatic Control and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

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