Schimmel/Conrades Science Center 163

“Modeling Self-Organization: Neurons, Zebrafish Stripes, and Political Elections”

Self-organization is a phenomenon in which independent agents interact to produce a larger collective dynamic or pattern (e.g., birds in a flock or vehicles in a traffic jam). In this talk, we will explore self-organization in three different biological and social settings: the formation of swollen beads on axons after traumatic brain injury, the development of stripes on the skin of zebrafish, and the spread of political opinions during US elections. While these applications seem disparate, they are each characterized by individual agents (microtubules/cargos, pigment cells, and voters) coming together to form emergent group dynamics. Moreover, alterations in agent interactions can lead to dramatic changes at the group level: for example, when pigment cells change their behavior due to a mutation, zebrafish may display spots instead of stripes. I will discuss how mathematical modeling can be used to describe agent interactions and predict how different agent behaviors will impact large-scale, emergent properties in these different applications.

Dr. Alexandria Volkening is a postdoctoral fellow at the Mathematical Biosciences Institute of The Ohio State University.