Ready, set, go!

The academic year begins for me today–Mason holds its annual planning conference over the next several days. That’s always the sign that the freshman move-in is imminent, and with it, the return of faculty and the start of classes.

This year, I’m additionally taking on the interim-chair position at our Computational Social Sciences Department, while my colleague Rob Axtell is on sabbatical at Oxford. Kim Blackwell, vice-chair of Molecular Neurosciences will be serving in my stead as interim chair of my home department. Should be an interesting year!

Tyler Cowen on the difference between UVA and GMU as far as credential signaling…

The blogpost is here. Read it and the comments, they make for a really interesting case study on where higher education might be heading.

Money quote to get you interested:

“It’s a well-known fact — well-known around GMU that is — that GMU graduates earn higher average salaries than do UVA grads (direct linkhere), that is for four year undergrads in their first year of employment.”

Shout out to one of our own: Claudio Cioffi…

From Nature Magazine, the link is here. Money quote:

Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, a computer social scientist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, welcomes cliodynamics as a natural complement to his own field: doing simulations using ‘agent-based’ computer models. Cioffi-Revilla and his team are developing one such model to capture the effects of modern-day climate change on the Rift Valley region in East Africa, a populous area that is in the grip of a drought. The model starts with a series of digital agents representing households and allows them to interact, following rules such as seasonal migration patterns and ethnic alliances. The researchers have already seen labour specialization and vulnerability to drought emerge spontaneously, and they hope eventually to be able to predict flows of refugees and identify potential conflict hotspots. Cioffi-Revilla says that cliodynamics could strengthen the model by providing the agents with rules extracted from historical data.

Last day in Woods Hole…

I’m heading home to DC tomorrow….and excited to host Mason’s new President as he visits the Krasnow Institute on Tuesday. In the meantime, I’m enjoying some final hours of cool sea breezes off Vineyard Sound.

It’s been an incredibly productive week scientifically. I’m more convinced than ever that understanding the molecular control (e.g. WNT, FOXP2) of neural development is central to our ever making sense of the Connectome.

MBL’s great strength lies in its ability to generate scientific renewal, as well as scientific birth.

Another year in the books….

This is commencement week at George Mason and marks the end of another academic year at once of the most dynamic higher education institutions in America. I continue to be amazed at the growth of this place. With the Washington DC area topping many of the human development metrics, it’s easy to imagine what we might look like in a decade or two and be filled with optimism.

Here at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, we’ll be celebrating the minting of new PhD’s, our first short-course collaboration with the Santa Fe Institute and a incredibly intense scientific year. Our final Institute seminar brought Nobel Laureate, Bert Sakmann to campus. Our PI’s work on areas ranging from molecular neuroscience to complex simulations of labor markets, all with the common themes of complexity and cognition (writ large).

Next week, we come back and head into our annual science retreat where we walk the walk of transdisciplinary scholarship. I’m really looking forward to it.

Finally, there’s the professional satisfaction of seeing some of my fine neuroscience undergraduate students stand up and be awarded their bachelors degree this Saturday. Priceless.

Whirlwind of a week…

There is something about the end of the semester that magnifies the intensity for work for students–finals, but it’s also true that we faculty feel something along the same lines. And it’s not just that we have to grade exams, there something about the intensity of university life that ticks up as the weeks go by towards Spring commencement.

This week we took a day trip out to Madison to learn about the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation or WARF. It’s an amazing organization that exists to support the research activities of one of America’s flagship publics.

This evening, Mason’s 40th Anniversary Gala will celebrate Alan and Sally Merten’s sixteen years leading this wonderful public institution. I’m looking forward to seeing plenty of old friends and colleagues and meeting some new ones.

Celebrating Faculty Achievement…

Left to right: George Mason University President Alan Merten, Professor Giorgio Ascoli and Professor Robert Hazen.

Watching two of our faculty stars recognized for their teaching and scholarship in the state capital was really gratifying yesterday.

They were two of twelve from across the Commonwealth, and George Mason was the only institution to have more than one winner.

The Governor presided over the luncheon at the magnificent Jefferson Hotel, after the awardees had been presented on the floor of the Virginia General Assembly. It really was quite an honor.

The Science of Complexity: Understanding the Global Financial Crisis


The Science of Complexity: 
Understanding the Global Financial Crisis
Co-sponsored by Santa Fe Institute and the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University
May 16-18, 2012, at the new Founders Hall facility at the GMU Arlington, VA campus.


The time-honored formulas of mainstream economics no longer capture the complex dynamics of today’s financial markets. This three-day symposium offers a view of the recent global financial crises from a new perspective—that of complexity science.  Sponsored by two leading complexity research institutes, the symposium will feature several of the world’s most prominent complex systems thinkers.  These experts will offer insights from non-linear dynamics, social networks, systemic risk, experimental economics, self-organized criticality, computational social science, and other areas that are vital not only to understand the current crises but to develop policies that address the underlying causes.   


The program is open to any interested participants, but is particularly designed for professionals in government, business, and the non-profit sectors.

For more information see http://krasnow.gmu.edu/soc Register now.