'Swarm Intelligence' scientist joins ASU

June 30, 2015

Physicist Eric Bonabeau, one of the world’s leading experts in complex systems and adaptive problem solving, has joined Arizona State University and the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems.

His book "Swarm Intelligence," a scientific bestseller now for 17 years, inspired Michael Crichton's popular bestseller, "Prey." Author and physicist Eric Bonabeau joins ASU on July 1. Author and physicist Eric Bonabeau joins ASU on July 1. Bonabeau penned the scientific bestseller "Swarm Intelligence," which inspired Michael Crichton's popular bestseller, "Prey." Photo by: Eric Bonabeau Download Full Image

“Dr. Bonabeau’s work in research and development, entrepreneurship and human decision-making has been groundbreaking,” said Robert E. Page Jr., former provost and professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences. Page also holds an appointment with the ASU center, as well as the position of external professor with the Santa Fe Institute. “He has transformed communications, robotics, discovery and technology. We look forward to his contributions to our efforts at ASU.”  

At ASU, Bonabeau will work primarily within the ASU-Santa Fe Institute (ASU-SFI) center. Created to advance complexity sciences and accelerate scientific understanding and problem-solving, the center’s focus areas are urbanization and scaling in cities, disease patterns and health care delivery, and the dynamics of innovation. 

“Eric’s out-of-the-box ways of thinking will enrich the many activities already underway within the ASU-SFI center and create new research possibilities, related to, among others, problems of conflict resolution,” said Manfred Laubichler, co-director of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute center and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute.

In the 1990s, Bonabeau was a research engineer with France Telecom R&D, a research and development engineer with Cadence Design Systems, and the Interval Research Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. A hotel mix-up in Santa Fe placed him in a room with Guy Theraulaz, a French scientist studying the collective intelligence of social insects. Previously not a fan of insects, conversations with Theraulaz helped Bonabeau visualize a mathematical connection between an ant’s distributed model of problem solving and his own work in computing and communications networks. 

In the last decade, Bonabeau’s studies centered on how technology can push the limits of human decision-making in a complex, decentralized and unpredictable world; studies spurred by a serendipitous exchange about social insects: ants, bees, wasps and termites.

Computational models of behavior and decision-making, predictive analytics, machine learning and research and discovery techniques form the core of his approach to decision support. According to Bonabeau, he is “reverse engineering nature – finding the rules that give rise to certain type of behavior, replicating it and learning how to control it.”

Bonabeau has authored more than 150 scientific articles, three books and is a co-inventor on 18 granted patents. He’s applied his approach to diverse challenges, from genetic algorithms that drive design evolution to self-organized systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles. His work has also served the U.S. Navy, probing for points of failure in control systems for warships.

“SFI, once my postdoctoral home, has had a deep, ongoing influence on my thinking and career,” said Bonabeau. “The ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems is giving me the opportunity to design and direct leading-edge research with a dynamic group of world-class scientists. I am beyond thrilled to be part of this emerging adventure.”

Bonabeau has also invested in innovative approaches to higher education. In addition to his work at ASU, he is the founding dean of computational sciences at The Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute, Claremont Colleges, a residential campus experience combined with online classrooms and an active learning approach informed by the science of learning. Prior to this, Bonabeau founded Icosystem Corporation, a research and development firm and technology incubator and was the CEO of Eurobios, a joint venture with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young to apply the science of complex adaptive systems to business issues. 

Bonabeau received his doctorate in theoretical physics from Paris-Sud University Orsay and is an alumnus of Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications in France. 

“Appointments such as Eric’s illustrate the advantages of the flexible and collaborative structures ASU has built over the last few years,” said Laubichler, who is also a professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences and associate director of ASU's Origins Project.

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


Certification program sharpens leadership skills for public-sector professionals

July 1, 2015

A cohort of more than 50 professionals from the Department of Child Safety recently received their Certified Public Manager credential through a program offered by Arizona State University’s Bob Ramsey Executive Education.

Accredited by the National CPM Consortium – which only allows one authorizing body in each state – the program further develops and sharpens the management and efficiency skills of public managers across Arizona and neighboring states. More than 2,000 individuals working for dozens of organizations throughout Arizona have received this credential. CPM graduation spring 2015 Hector Zelaya (left), Bob Ramsey Executive Education director, and Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, congratulate Sahar Gipson after completion of the Certified Public Manager program. Photo by: Bryan Mok/ASU Download Full Image

“(The program) not only allows you to learn about managing in the public sector, but you learn more about yourself,” Arizona Department of Child Safety unit supervisor Amanda Cannon said. “I was able to teach people I manage to think more independently and to develop plans and strategies.”

Participants must complete a demanding curriculum of learning activities addressing various competencies of management as well as topics and courses such as management in the public organization, decision management, and ethics and management simulation.

As employees of the Department of Child Safety already have a demanding schedule, the Certified Public Manager Program is also available online.

“The curriculum is a comprehensive leadership and organizational emphasis program” said Sheila Murphy, developer and instructor of the CPM online course. “We configured the program into five courses, each dealing with public management and making it more relevant and more effective.”

“The constant communication was extremely helpful,” Department of Child Safety ongoing supervisor Rosette Codner explained. “The feedback was real and authentic, and after every week I was able to pull lessons and put them into practice.”

“I was able to interact a lot with my peers and gain their perspective on how the agency is running and where our future should be,” recalled Jay Chapman, Department of Child Safety after-hours supervisor for Maricopa County. “It opens your eyes to the complete running of the entire department and lets you see the difficulties and big decisions made daily by executive level leadership.”

The group aspect is crucial. A big project within the program involves working in regional teams and selecting a primary issue that would produce good and efficient results in returning children to their families or finding proper placement.

“Take this to heart,” advised Sahar Gipson, Department of Child Safety assistant program manager for Pima County. “The quality of your leadership and supervisor skills will improve.”

“These are social workers; their work is incredibly high-pressure,” said Tracey Regenold, program coordinator for ASU’s Bob Ramsey Executive Education. “Sometimes there is a disconnect, especially with all the changes this particular cohort experienced in their field. They were tremendously inspiring.”

The Certified Public Manager program is one of a number of certification programs and trainings offered by Bob Ramsey Executive Education, a center within the School of Public Affairs in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Written by Christopher Hernandez

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions