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2017-18 Networking Groups

The five 2017-2018 research networking groups met around the topics of Finite Earth, Computational Social Sciences, and Quantitative Biology as described below. 


Finite Earth

Planet Earth is our only home. While Earth may have once seemed like an infinite paradise, humanity is increasingly facing the consequences of Earth’s finite dimensions and resources. The Finite Earth group mingled diverse intelligence at the intersection of active finite earth research and expertise in data science. Topics of discussion included sustainability, global climate change, water and food security, energy storage, non-equilibrium systems, environmental impact of society’s metals, sensor networks, cross-disciplinary data analyses, conservation, power grids, networks, geo-engineering, economics, and more. The scholars in the Finite Earth network emerging from this luncheon advised, enlightened, supported, and stimulated each other, formed new collaborations, wrote proposals together, and served on each other’s faculty search committees.

The Finite Earth group included 23 faculty members from McCormick  and Weinberg and was co-led by Suzan Van der Lee from Earth and Planetary Sciences in Weinberg and Eric Masanet from Mechanical Engineering and Chemical and Biological Engineering in McCormick.

See a video from the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems featuring Suzan van der Lee, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Bill Miller, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, both members of the 2017-2018 Finite Earth Research Networking Luncheon group and current members of the 2018-2019 Chicago Research Networking Luncheon group.

Computational Social Sciences (Law, Crime, and Conflict Group)

This interdisciplinary group examined how computational social science impacts crime, law, and conflict. As technology is increasingly utilized to aid human decision-making, substantial opportunities exist to improve the efficiency and precision of decisions we make as individuals and as a society. However, new reliance on computational systems also entails novel challenges, such as ensuring that the systems are accurate, just, and fair, so there is much work to be done. Additionally, the group explored tactics for resolving the structural barriers to interdisciplinary work and training in academia.

This group included 10 faculty members from McCormick, Feinberg, Weinberg, Kellogg, SESP, and Pritzker and was co-led by Michelle Birkett from Medical Social Sciences in Feinberg and Doug Downey from Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in McCormick.

During 2018-2019, several members of the group are continuing to meet with Computer Science faculty to define and develop a data structure and query tool that can curate publicly available court and litigation data and accurately answer advance queries of interest within legal and public policy domains.


Computational Social Sciences (Group Two)

The second Computational Social Science networking group brought together researchers from a diverse set of disciplines and departments, engaged in rigorous empirical research utilizing cutting-edge computational techniques with application to social science questions. Group members shared works in progress and solicited feedback via short presentations and discussions. Presentations emphasized the computational and machine learning methods used in these ongoing research programs, with approaches varying from network analysis to natural language processing to Bayesian models. Participants applied these methods to topics as varied as how to design effective matchmaking algorithms and apps, how politicians assess constituent beliefs, how consumers engage with news programming, how to assess effects of environmental marketing on brand perceptions via text analysis, and how to generate accurate early detection methods for psychosis risk.

This group included 20 faculty members from Weinberg, Kellogg, Feinberg, McCormick, SESP, School of Communication, and Medill and was co-led by Sarah Bouchat from Political Science in Weinberg and Brian Uzzi from Management and Organizations in Kellogg.


Quantitative Biology (Groups One and Two)

The Quantitative Biology-focused faculty were organized into two groups with a total of 30 faculty members from Feinberg, Weinberg, McCormick, and Pritker. One group was co-led by Rosemary Braun from Preventive Medicine in Feinberg and Julius Lucks from Chemical and Biological Engineering in McCormick, and the other group was co-led by Deborah Winter from Medicine in Feinberg and Richard Carthew from Molecular Biosciences in Weinberg.

Presentation topics included transforming ‘omics into dynamics; connecting microscopic behavior to bulk phenotypic properties in living systems; engineering protein superstructures; understanding short functional motifs in rapidly evolving intrinsically disordered proteins; coupling computer to microscope to provide new views on old questions; mapping the gene regulatory networks of macrophages; emergent metabolic dynamics in bacterial communities; and using neuroimaging to predict Alzheimer’s.

In May 2018, several members of the group received a highly competitive grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Simons Foundation to establish the NSF-Simons Center for Quantitative Biology at Northwestern