Santa Fe Institute: Complexity Research

Before we return refreshed from the summer next September, Dr. David Black will have hosted an intensive two-week long summer program that aims to introduce high school students to complexity science.  The Santa Fe Institute will run the program, which claims its complexity scholars investigate the theoretical foundations and patterns underlying “systems” we encounter every day, such as economies, ecosystems, conflict, and disease. Their research attempts to uncover and understand the deep commonalities that link artificial, human, and natural systems.  Dr. Black will head the faculty, and a team of transdisciplinary complexity scholars from the Santa Fe Institute’s research community will join him.

The program runs from July 28th to August 9th, and the students will live in Upper School dorms.  The program consists of a mixture of individual projects, computer simulation activities, analysis of data, lectures, and seminars.  On weekends, students will work in the field to collect data.  In addition, a typical day will consist of lectures, working in small groups, and independent research time, mixed in with non-academic activities, like sports and hikes.

The Santa Fe Institute, which is running the program, is a Santa Fe-based research community, which focuses on understanding complex physical, computational, biological, and social systems, which “underlie many of the most profound problems facing science and society today”.  The Santa Fe Institute is a private, non-profit organization and the institute typically has about thirty researchers on-site in Santa Fe at any given time.  The institute is about thirty percent federally funded, and their research has already been applied to help people on the ground.  For example, their research has been used to create new HIV therapies, put sustainable agriculture policies into practice in Indonesia, and influence today’s business policy.

The program was last run in 2011. Groton hosted the program that year as well, and the program culminated with students creating an in-depth computer based ecological model.  At the end of the program, students presented their models to their peers and the program’s faculty.  One student modeled the growth of cancerous tumors in the lungs, while another made a model showing how various animals were affected by deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest.  The model showed that top predators suffer the most.  Still another model simulated the result of a human-versus-alien war.  There was even a model showing the success of trafficking heroin through New York City.  Current students Henry Barker and Taichi Kobayashi attended the 2011 program.

The 2011 program was the first time the program was run, so there will surely be many changes from the 2011 program.  The program cost $2,500 dollars, and financial aid will be available for about thirty-five percent of applicants.  The program also encourages under-represented minorities and women to apply.

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