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The Complex Systems Initiative at UAA

"Complex Systems is a new field of science studying how parts of a system give rise to the collective behaviors of the system, and how the system interacts with its environment."
- Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam, New England Complex Systems Institute.

The UAA Complex Systems Group was formed in 1998, led by faculty members from Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Logistics, Nursing, and Art.  This self-organized interdisciplinary group, with a changing composition, has maintained focus into the present, providing a variety of structured activities to explore ideas of non-linear dynamics (in which unique system features develop organically from feedback between the various elements), computability, and associated ways that natural and man-made systems interact in complex ways to create our modern world.

Complex Systems is an initiative rather than a program or a Center.  It can stretch across all units at UAA, and can include all interested faculty and all students.  Research and the interchange of ideas are the lifeblood of the program.  The goal is to create an interdisciplinary intellectual space where new and innovative ideas can be explored.

The initiative has two elements:

Undergraduate instruction is coordinated through the UAA Honors College.  At the moment, two courses are taught per semester under a CPLX prefix, with additional curriculum being planned to create a Complex Systems minor within the “Natural and Complex Systems” track. 

Faculty development and support is coordinated by the Institutional Effectiveness, Engagement, and Academic Support (IEEAS) division of the Provost’s office.  This includes a variety of activities, including:

  • A vibrant Speaker’s Series with research faculty from universities and institutes across the country discussing their research and insights.
  • Weekly “Brown Bag” symposia for UAA faculty to present and discuss their research.
  • Faculty and student minigrants to fund research and computer modeling support.
  • Helping to fund four international conferences (in 2002, 2009, 2013, and 2015) on “Emergence in Chemical Systems” that included researchers from around the world.