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  Complexity Conference
© Nathan Mandell
Conference co-organizer Prof. Daniel Diermeier introduces the event.

From physics to business, complexity conference seeks unifying frameworks

by Deborah Leigh Wood

Prominent academic experts converged at the Conference on Complex Systems, an interdisciplinary event held Oct. 24 and 25 at the Kellogg School’s James. L. Allen Center.

" This conference presented a unique opportunity for the Northwestern community to experience the thinking of leading minds in the emerging science of complexity,” said conference co-organizer Daniel Diermeier, IBM Distinguished Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice at Kellogg.

He said complexity research provides unifying frameworks for highly interconnected systems with many agents, with applications ranging from biochemical pathways to neural networks to social interactions such as trading floors, supply chains and the Internet.

The conference was sponsored by Kellogg, the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, where Diermeier’s co-organizer, Julio M. Ottino, is the Robert R. McCormick Institute Professor and Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical Engineering.

The conference facilitates transfer of knowledge across traditional boundaries at Northwestern, Diermeier said, to encourage path-breaking research across disciplines.

Conference speakers addressed subjects such as "Understanding Genetic Regulatory Networks,” "The Evolution of Ethnocentric Behavior” and "The Economy as a Complex Adaptive System.”

" Scientific breakthroughs frequently happen at the edges of established discipline-based knowledge,” said Ottino. "Ideas originating in one field often find successful applications in other fields, sometimes leading to revolutionary conceptual changes."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University