University of Vermont

University Communications

Stuart Kauffman, Complex Systems Pioneer, to Join UVM Faculty

Release Date: 09-25-2009

Author: Jeffrey R. Wakefield
Email: Jeffrey.Wakefield@uvm.edu
Phone: 802/656-2005 Fax: (802) 656-3203

Stuart Kauffman

(Photo: Ken Bendiktsen, University of Calgary)

Stuart Kauffman, one of the world's most eminent scientists — a founder of the field of complex systems science, pioneer of biocomplexity research, and MacArthur "Genius" Fellow — will join the faculty of the University of Vermont in January, the university announced today.

Kauffman will join UVM's Complex Systems Center with a joint faculty appointment in the university's College of Medicine and College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. Funding secured by Senator Patrick Leahy in the NASA budget for 2009 launched the Complex Systems Center.

"I couldn't be more pleased that Dr. Kauffman, a world-renowned scholar, author, and entrepreneur in complex systems, has chosen the University of Vermont to continue his transformational work," said vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College, Domenico Grasso. "Stuart is tackling some of the most difficult and important issues of our time, from the behavior of cells in cancer treatment to the origin of life. His work adds new strength to the University of Vermont's growing reputation as a national center for excellence in high-value, multidisciplinary, and relevant research for our 21st century society."

"I'm very happy to be coming to UVM," Kauffman said. "I'm drawn by the bright young faculty in the Complex Systems Center and the great work I think we'll be able to do as a team, as well as by the investments the university has made in complex systems and advanced computing and its strong support for cross-disciplinary research. I'm especially intrigued by Dr. Grasso's vision of making UVM the Santa Fe Institute of the east," he said, referring to the world's leading think-tank for complex systems, which he co-founded with Nobel laureates Murray Gell-Mann and Ken Arrow, "and look forward to making that vision a reality."

A medical doctor by early training, Kauffman moved to the study of theoretical biology and complex systems in positions at the University of Chicago and University of Pennsylvania, with international recognition in his work to bring complex systems thinking to issues of evolution. He is the author of At Home in the Universe and Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion, and the founder of the BiosGroup, a consulting company that applied complex systems science to business management and drew clients including Ford, Texas Instruments, Boeing, the Office of Naval Research, and the IRS.

Kauffman is director for biocomplexity and informatics at the University of Calgary. Over the past year, he has been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Divinity School and will concurrently hold the title of "Finnish Distinguished Professor" with the Tempere University of Technology in Finland during part of his tenure at UVM.

Complex systems science focuses on the emergent and adaptive behaviors between multiple systems and their interactions — environmental, social, economic, technological — and has been identified as a strategic focus area for both federal government and private industry research investments in the next ten years. Over the past four years, and in advance of these national trends, UVM has successfully recruited world-class young faculty in complex systems — faculty with interests in adaptive robotics, social networks, infectious disease transmission, chaotic systems and climate change, "smart" energy systems, and evolutionary biology, to name a few.