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Systems Science Seminar Series

SUMMARY: The Systems Science Seminar Series covers a wide-range of topics, providing an opportunity for presenters to share and attendees to become exposed to latest and often cutting-edge research from different fields and disciplines. Agent-based simulation, artificial intelligence, artificial life, genetic algorithms, machine learning, neural networks, signal processing, social networks, system dynamics, and science itself are just a few of the many diverse topics that have been presented, all in an informal environment where questions and discussion are encouraged. The Seminar Syllabus is also available here.

QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS: If you have questions or comments, would like to present a seminar, or if you have suggestions for topics or speakers, please email Diana Fisher at

SEMINAR ANNOUNCEMENT LISTSERVE: subscribe to the seminar listserve to receive announcements.

Past seminar links and records can be found on our Seminar Archive page


Fall 2013 Schedule



Spring 2014 SCHEDULE

2013 Announcements

DATE: Friday, October 11, 2013 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Diana Fisher

TITLE: Room Introducing Systems Concepts Children Can Learn K-12. Followed by a demo of the iPad version of STELLA.

SUMMARY: It is increasingly evident that understanding problems from a holistic, systemic perspective is essential in dealing with many of our most serious problems. It makes sense, therefore, to start helping students develop systems thinking and systems model-building skills early. This talk will present a list of numerous systems thinking and system dynamics model-building skills that have been successfully taught to children K-12, compiled by educators who have worked with these concepts with students in K-12 for over 20 years. It will provide an explanation of some resources for starting the education of your own children, if such skills are not taught in your child’s school. Parents are, of course, the most important and first teacher.

Additionally, a demonstration of STELLA Modeler, the newest STELLA app for the iPad, which will debut on October 31, will be given. The software is more complete than expected and will cost (anticipated) $39.99. It is a very nicely designed application.

BIO: Diana Fisher is a Ph.D. student in the Systems Science Graduate Program at Portland State University (with emphasis on System Dynamics Modeling, especially in math and science instruction). She is currently designing an online course, An Introduction to System Dynamics for Mathematics and Science Instruction, which will be completed by June 2014. She presented a two-week modeling and simulation (MODSIM) workshop for high school math teachers 3 months ago sponsored by NASA, at their Langley Research Center. In the spring term at PSU, she teaches the undergraduate Environmental Math Modeling course. Ms. Fisher was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the System Dynamics Society, in 2011. She has also received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching as well as Intel's Innovation in Teaching award. She has published five books, the most recent two on the use of System Dynamics modeling, Lessons in Mathematics: A Dynamic Approach, and Modeling Dynamic Systems: Lessons for a First Course, both published by isee systems.


DATE: Friday, October 18, 2013 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Dead Letter

TITLE: 3d Network Displays in Netlogo and R.

SUMMARY: Displaying a network in 2 dimensions is achieved through a variety of layout algorithms intended to reveal internal symmetry, reduce edge overlaps, display flow and reveal principal components. A broad survey of network types are shown in a variety of two dimensional display algorithms, and then four novel three dimensional sorting algorithms are proposed.

BIO: Dead Letter is a PhD candidate in Systems Science at Portland State University, with an interest in shared knowledge visualization to assist in group decision making processes.


DATE: Friday, October 25, 2013 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Martin Zwick

TITLE: Is the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature False?


This paper assesses the main argument of Thomas Nagel’s recent book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. The paper agrees with Nagel that, as an approach to the relation between mind and matter and the mystery of subjective experience, neutral monism is more likely to be true than either materialism or idealism. It disagrees with Nagel by favoring a version of neutral monism based on emergence rather than on a reductive pan-psychism. However, the paper invokes a reductive view when applied to information (as opposed to psyche), and posits a hierarchy of types of information that span the domains of matter, life, and mind. Subjective experience is emergent, but also continuous with informational phenomena at lower levels.

The paper is available at:

BIO: Martin Zwick has been teaching and doing research in the Systems Science Graduate Program since 1976. His main research areas are information theoretic modeling and maching learning, theoretical biology, game theory and systems theory and philosophy. Scientifically, his focus is on applying systems theory and methodology to the natural and social sciences, especially to biomedical data analysis, the evolution of cooperation, and sustainability. Philosophically, his focus is on how systems ideas relate to classical and contemporary philosophy, how they bear on tensions between science and religion, and how they help us understand and address societal problems. For details, see his Course Information and Publications pages and/or his research pages about Discrete Multivariate Modeling, Artificial Life and Theoretical Biology, and Systems Theory and Philosophy.


DATE: Friday, November 1, 2013 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Ed Gallaher

TITLE: Success Story: The Mayo Clinic Anemia Management System (MCAMS)

SUMMARY: Uncovering a Classic Misunderstanding of Endogenous Delays: Two Decades of Ineffective Anemia Management in Kidney Dialysis Patients
- Identifying the Problem with System Thinking
- Solving the Problem with System Dynamics

PROBLEM: Uncovering healthy kidneys releast hormone erythropoietin (EPO) which stimulates red blood cells production in the bone marrow. This hormone is absent in end-stage disease, so in addition to the obvious requirement for dialysis, recombinant (closed) EPO must be administered to avoid severe anemia. However, several interacting feedback delays conspire to produce oscillations in hemoglobin levels, with typical periods of three to four months. Lower Hgb levels lead to profound fatigue and cognitive difficulties; high Hgb levels increase blood viscosity, increasing the risk of congestive heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes. In addition, EPO is very expensive, costing thousands of dollars per patient per year.

MODEL: We developed a model that takes into account: (i) the dose and timing of EPO administration; (ii) the duration of EPO in the body; (iii) the 10-15 day lag in RBC production following EPO administration; and (iv) the lifespan of circulating RBC's, which range from 120 days in healthy individuals to 50-80 days in dialysis patients. Historical data is imported into the model, followed by Monte Carlo simulations to infer a set of biological parameters that are consistent with EPO doses ('perturbations') and Hgb responses ('transient responses') in each individual patient.

RESULTS: (i) MCAMS has been applied to over 600 patients, leading to virtually total elimination of undesirable Hgb oscillations. (ii) Clinicians previously managed anemia in 60-80 patients; a single data analyst and one clinician now manage over 500 patients in approximately one day per week. (iii) Patients report noticeable improvements in quality of life. (iv) EPO doses have been reduced by about 40% at considerable savings in cost. (v) Given consistent and reliable Hgb levels, decreasing Hgb values are quickly flagged for closer analysis by clinicians. Typical reasons include unrecognized GI bleeding, or inflammation such as poor wound healing in diabetic patients. Previously, this crucial data was totally lost in the noise of Hgb oscillations. As a result, these issues are identified and treated much sooner, leading rto a 20% reduction in annual hospitalization days within the dialysis patient population. Taken together, cost savings are estimated at about $4M per year.

BIO: Dr. Ed Gallaher received a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Washington Medical School. This was followed by postdoctoral research at Stanford, and seven years as a Principal Investigator at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto. In 1986 he moved to Portland, with joint appointments at the VA Medical Center, and the Departments of Pharmacology and Behavioral Neuroscience. His research focused on drug tolerance and physical dependence, using system dynamics as an organizational framework for the underlying biological processes. He collaborated on a Portland Public Schools NSF grant to provide System Dynamics training to K-12 teachers, and PPS collaborated with him on an NIH education grant: SimHealth: Health Education via System Dynamics Modeling and Simulation.

Based on the effectiveness of these programs, he recently co-founded RxSim, Inc., to develop and market tools for 'ordinary folks' to help them understand and better manage medications for themselves and their immediate families.


DATE: Friday, November 8, 2013 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Michael Chad Miller

TITLE:  Global Resource Management of Response Surface Methodology   

SUMMARY: Statistical research can be more difficult to plan than other kinds of projects, since the research must adapt as knowledge is gained. This dissertation establishes a formal language and methodology for designing experimental research strategies with limited resources. It is a mathematically rigorous extension of a sequential and adaptive form of statistical research called response surface methodology. It uses sponsor-given information, conditions, and resource constraints to decompose an overall project into individual stages. At each stage, a "parent" decision-maker determines what design of experimentation to do for its stage of research, and adapts to the feedback from that research's potential "children," each of whom deal with a different possible state of knowledge resulting from the experimentation of the "parent." The research of this dissertation extends the real-world rigor of the statistical field of design of experiments to develop a deterministic, adaptive algorithm that produces deterministically generated, reproducible, testable, defendable, adaptive, resource-constrained multi-stage experimental schedules without having to spend physical resource. 

BIO: Michael Chad Miller is a doctoral candidate in the Systems Science: Mathematics Ph.D. Program, and has earned a BS and a MS in Mathematics at PSU.


DATE: Friday, November 15, 2013 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Darcy Winslow

TITLE: Transformational Change at a Scale that Matters

SUMMARY: Natural systems demonstrate harmony, balance, interdependence and balancing competition and cooperation. However, modern industrial expansion has disrupted most if not all natural systems, and some would argue a few have reached a tipping point from which they may not return. I will share a few examples where taking a systems approach is resulting in unprecedented, pre-competitive collaboration that is showing positive change in critical systems. These will include examples at Nike and in the larger sports product industry, as well as in education and marine eco-systems through the work of the Academy for Systemic Change. All of these require participation across sectors, and have implications in the economic, environmental, social and political realms.

BIO: Darcy Winslow is the Managing Partner of the Academy for Systemic Change, an organization focused on unlocking the human spirit and building capacity in business, education and marine ecosystems to create systemic change for social, economic and environmental well-being at a scale that matters. In 2008, Darcy founded DSW Collective, LLC, which focuses on the alignment of organizational values and principles with the development and implementation of practical yet aggressive systemic sustainable design strategies.
Before starting her business she worked at Nike, Inc. for over 20 years and held several senior management positions within the business and the Nike Foundation, most notably starting the Sustainable Business Strategies in 1999, Senior Advisor to the Nike Foundation, Global Director for Research Design and Development and as General Manager/VP for Nike’s Global Women’s Footwear, Apparel and Equipment division.
Darcy received her BS in Exercise Science, studied Sports Medicine, and received her MS in Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics, and is a 2003 graduate of the Stanford Executive Program.


DATE: Friday, November 22, 2013 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Martin Zwick

TITLE: Using Information Theory to Discover Relationships in Data

SUMMARY:    This talk will introduce Reconstructability Analysis (RA), a machine learning methodology developed in the systems community based on information theory and graph theory.  RA is a member of the family of methods known as ‘graphical models,’ which also include Bayesian networks and log-linear techniques. It is explicitly designed for exploratory modeling, i.e., for discovery of unknown relationships in data, although it can also be used for confirmatory hypothesis testing.  RA can discover complex and nonlinear interaction effects that are not hypothesized in advance.

The talk will present an overview of basic theory and typical applications of RA. It will introduce OCCAM, the RA software package developed at PSU that is web accessible and freely usable for research.  (Research collaborations are invited!)  The web page on this methodology, which includes tutorials, access to the software, and a user’s manual, is .




DATE: Friday, December 6, 2013 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Ken Willett (postponed to January 17, 2014)

TITLE: Big Data in Healthcare

SUMMARY: The term "Big Data" has begun to appear in the media to describe massive databases used for analytical purposes. But what is Big Data? How big is big? What are the challenges in managing very large databases, and what value can be achieved with them in healthcare and life sciences?
 Bio: Ken Willett is the former CEO of Ignis Systems Corporation, a Healthcare IT company, and is current VP of Healthcare IT Strategies for Liaison Healthcare, a division of a global data integration and management company.


DATE: Friday, January 10, 2014 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104


TITLE: Time Series Analysis of Volatility and Correlations: Mongolian and World Equity Markets

Summary: Based on a recent publication, I summarize the application of financial time series analysis of dynamic volatilities and correlations to study the emerging markets and their relations with the developed world markets. For more information, please refer to:

Bio:  Professor of Economics, Fulbright-Hays Research Scholar, 1985-1986, ISEAS, Singapore; Post Doctorate Research Fellow in Economics, 1979, Harvard University; M.A. 1973, Ph.D. 1977 State University of New York, Stony Brook; B.L. 1970 National Chengchi University (Taiwan, China) .  Teaching fields: Econometrics, Mathematical Economics, Research Methods.  Research interests: Computational econometrics: financial time series, spatial econometrics, Bayesian econometrics; Computer applications in economics: artificial intelligence, qualitative reasoning, neural networks, and generic algorithms; Internet economics: Internet resources allocation problems, measuring the Internet economy; Computable or applied general equilibrium (CGE) models; Chinese Economy.


DATE: Friday, January 17, 2014 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Ken Willett

TITLE: Big Data in Healthcare

SUMMARY: The term "Big Data" has begun to appear in the media to describe massive databases used for analytical purposes. But what is Big Data? How big is big? What are the challenges in managing very large databases, and what value can be achieved with them in healthcare and life sciences?
 Bio: Ken Willett is the former CEO of Ignis Systems Corporation, a Healthcare IT company, and is current VP of Healthcare IT Strategies for Liaison Healthcare, a division of a global data integration and management company.

DATE: Friday, January 24, 2014 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104


TITLE: Antifragility and the works of Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Are they Systems Science?

SUMMARY: The talk will briefly review the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb with emphasis on his recent work on Antifragility.    Then we will look at the work’s relevance to the world.  Finally, we will discuss its place in systems science.
Bio: Rich Jolly is an adjunct professor for the Systems Science program and an independent trader.   Prior, Rich spent many, many years at Intel.    He earned a PhD from PSU in systems science/business administration.


DATE: Friday, January 31, 2014 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Cecily Froemke

TITLE: Predicting Patient Outcomes in Total Joint Arthroplasty: The Role of Reconstructability Analysis

SUMMARY: Reconstructability Analysis (RA) constructed predictive models may be useful in health outcomes research in general and more specifically in assessing physician performance under new payment systems. In healthcare reimbursement, payment is increasingly tied to performance based on outcomes. Understanding a patient’s expected outcomes upon hospital admission provides a measure of performance which can be built into the structure of payment arrangements. Predictive risk modeling can be of assistance in meeting the challenges of providing quality healthcare with limited resources. This presentation provides an overview of a study testing the expectation that RA can perform as well as Logistic Regression in predicting outcomes in hip and knee replacement surgeries and that it may in fact provide additional accuracy through detection of interaction effects. 

Cecily Froemke is currently a practitioner in the field of health outcomes research and is the Program Manager for Information & Research for the Providence Orthopedic Institute. Cecily earned her Master’s degree, and is a candidate for her PhD, in Systems Science at Portland State University. She is a lifelong resident of Portland Oregon and lives in SW Portland with her husband, a high school mathematics teacher, their 4 year old daughter, an animal lover and rescuer like her idol “Diego”, and their 1 year old baby girl who claps her hands for herself as she teeters on the edge of taking her first step.


DATE: Friday, February 7, 2014 12:00 - 1:00 PM (rescheduled to Feb. 21)

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Wayne Wakeland and Erin Kenzie

TITLE: Creating a Dynamic Model of Recovery from Concussion

SUMMARY: Although most patients recover relatively quickly from concussion, and are left with minimal if any deficits, there is considerable variation in recovery trajectories. We do not understand very well the reasons for these differences, nor do we understand very well how the various treatments and therapies contribute to these outcome trajectories.  Because concussion recovery involves complex and dynamic interactions between physiology, cognition, and other factors, linear analysis methods have proved to have limited value.  Consequently, concussion researchers recently initiated a collaboration with system scientists to create a nonlinear dynamic model. 

The modeling team is employing the system dynamics method as a tool for building the model, and is doing so in a collaborative fashion with the subject matter experts.

Our talk will focus on the process being employed, with the specifics of concussion model provided for illustrative purposes.

Wayne Wakeland earned his PhD in Systems Science in the 1970's and is currently a professor in Systems Science Program.  His research focuses on the application of simulation methods for improving understanding of complex systems and processes.  Erin Kenzie earned BS degrees in Psychology and Philosophy and an MS in Sustainability Science, and is a doctoral student in the Systems Science Program. Her research interests include using systems science tools and methods to address problems related to human behavior and sustainability.

Date: Friday,  February 14, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  
Location: Harder House, Room 104
 Presenter:  Marcus Harris
Reconstructability analysis of household water use data 

Abstract:  Augmenting a recent urban sustainability study by PSU’s Vivek Shandas et. al. titled “The implications of climate change on residential water use: a micro-scale analysis of Portland (OR), USA”,  Marcus Harris and Martin Zwick use Reconstructability Analysis as an exploratory tool to detect non-linear and multi-variable relations between local climate data, individual household characteristics, and water use. The current study finds interactions between household and climate variables predictive of water use that are consistent with the prior study, but also finds new significant predictive interaction effects between different household variables.  In addition, the current study compares the effectiveness of water use prediction via RA and regression analysis.

Bio: Marcus Harris is a core Systems Science PhD candidate with a primary research interest in the advancement of reconstructability analysis as a general tool for discrete and continuous prediction.   He lives with his wife and three children in Newberg and enjoys spending time with them when he’s not at school.


Date: Friday,  February 21, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  
Location: Harder House, Room 104
 Presenter:  Wayne Wakeland and Erin Kenzie
   Creating a Dynamic Model of Recovery from Concussion

SUMMARY: Although most patients recover relatively quickly from concussion, and are left with minimal if any deficits, there is considerable variation in recovery trajectories. We do not understand very well the reasons for these differences, nor do we understand very well how the various treatments and therapies contribute to these outcome trajectories.  Because concussion recovery involves complex and dynamic interactions between physiology, cognition, and other factors, linear analysis methods have proved to have limited value.  Consequently, concussion researchers recently initiated a collaboration with system scientists to create a nonlinear dynamic model. 

The modeling team is employing the system dynamics method as a tool for building the model, and is doing so in a collaborative fashion with the subject matter experts.

Our talk will focus on the process being employed, with the specifics of concussion model provided for illustrative purposes.

Wayne Wakeland earned his PhD in Systems Science in the 1970's and is currently a professor in Systems Science Program.  His research focuses on the application of simulation methods for improving understanding of complex systems and processes.  Erin Kenzie earned BS degrees in Psychology and Philosophy and an MS in Sustainability Science, and is a doctoral student in the Systems Science Program. Her research interests include using systems science tools and methods to address problems related to human behavior and sustainability.


Date: Friday,  February 28, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  
Location: Harder House, Room 104
 Presenter:  Joe Fusion
A Particle Dynamics Model for the Emergence of a Metabolism

Summary: In studies of the Origin of Life, one major hurdle is determining how a prebiotic system could maintain its state, far from environment or equilibrium, without the features of a living system. A suggested mechanism for overcoming this obstacle is an autocatalytic reaction network: a set of polymers whose members catalyze the reactions of other members, forming feedback loops and acting like a metabolism. To date, research on this topic has predominately focused on differential equation models, describing aggregate reaction rates and concentrations. These networks have not yet been studied with a physics-based, molecular dynamics model, with discrete agents and spatial heterogeneity. This seminar will present the results from such a model, and will show how the results from the different methods compare and contrast. (This work represents the first half of the presenter's Ph.D. research.)

Bio: Joe Fusion is a Systems Science Ph.D. candidate with research interests in systems modeling, data mining, complex systems, theoretical biology, and so on. He also works as a Data Scientist for Nike, in the Sport Research lab. He lives with his amazing partner, Madeline, and their two excellent cats, Raoul Duke and Francesca Fiore. He is very much looking forward to finishing his degree and having hobbies again.


Date: Friday,  March 7, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  
Location: Harder House, Room 104
Dennis Swiercinsky
 Modeling utilization of the Neuropsychological Examination in Criminal Forensics 

Summary:  The Criminal Justice Supersystem is presented as a system of systems. The forensic neuropsychological examination is a key component, interpreted differently by different systems, in aiding the court to adjudicate criminal cases. The principle role of the neuropsychological examination and report of findings is in advising on matters of trial competency, criminal responsibility (including Guilty Except for Insanity pleas), and sentencing mitigation. Understanding his/her role within a complex network of systems may increase the utility of the neuropsychologist's influence. Just what that influence is depends on the connection links and strengths within the network.

Bio:  Dennis Swiercinsky is a licensed psychologist in Oregon and California, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology at PSU teaching neuroscience and cognition courses. He has practiced clinical and forensic neuropsychology for over 35 years and is a Certified Forensic Examiner in Oregon. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology and is a Fellow in the National Academy of Neuropsychology. He wants to retire!


Date: Friday,  March 14, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  
Location: Harder House, Room 104
Aubrey Gutierrez and Josh Van Quick 

 Network Visualisations using Microsoft Excel: An Introduction to NodeXL  

Summary: NodeXL is a free, open-source template add-in for Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010 and 2013 that makes it easy to create and explore network graphs. NodeXL is a powerful and easy-to-use interactive network visualization and analysis tool for representing generic graph data, performing advanced network analysis and visual exploration of networks. The tool supports multiple social network data providers such us Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (and more) that import graph data (nodes and edge lists) into the Excel spreadsheet. Josh and Aubrey will show us the basics, as well as some of the social media networking features of NodeXL.

Bio: Aubrey Gutierrez is a senior in the School of Business at Portland State University. She is majoring in Business Management/Leadership. Her interests consist of traveling, skydiving, and other outrageous adventures. She currently manages 4 e-commerce stores and loves every minute of it.

Bio: Josh Van Quick is a junior enrolled in the Computer Science Program at Portland State University. He currently works as a production manager for a food processing company in Salem, Oregon. His passions include working out, social media, and learning new technologies. 


Spring 2014 SCHEDULE

Date: Friday,  April 4, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  
Location: Harder House, Room 104
Susan Sienko
Understanding the Complex Relationships that Impact Health of Young Adults with Cerebral Palsy as They Transition from Pediatric to Adult Health Care System  

Summary: The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) is a multidimensional framework for examining the complex interactions between the health condition, impairments, activity limitations, participation restrictions and the personal and environmental factors that influence personal health and well-being. This presentation will demonstrate how the ICF model was used to understand the complex relationships that impact the health and well-being of young adults with Cerebral Palsy as they transition from the pediatric health care system to the adult health care system in order to determine specific areas for change.
Bio: Susan Sienko is currently a Clinical Research Associate at Shriners Hospitals for Children where she has worked for the past 21 years with her colleagues, investigating the efficacy of interventions for children with orthopedic problems. Susan is currently a candidate for her PhD in Systems Science at Portland State University. In her spare time she likes to run, play tennis, knit, quilt, and spend time with her husband and 19 year old twin daughters.

Date: Friday,  April 11, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  (This Seminar was cancelled)
Location: Harder House, Room 104
Mark Bedau
An Empirical Defense of Cultural Darwinism  

Summary:  Description: Cultural Darwinism is the thesis that some populations of cultural entities undergo Darwinian natural selection. Cultural Darwinism has been criticized on many grounds, including that (1) it is not operational, (2) it is false, (3) it is not a fruitful and legitimate empirical science, and (4) it presupposes a false atomistic view of culture. This talk provides an empirical defense of cultural Darwinism, by analyzing data in the patent record for evidence of the Darwinian processes in the evolution of technology, and by responding to objections (1) - (4).

Bio: Professor of Philosophy at Reed College; Adjunct Professor of Systems Science at PSU; Editor-in-Chief of Artificial Life (MIT Press journal)

Date: Friday,  April 18, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  
Location: Harder House, Room 104
Presenter: Amanuel Zimam

Title:   Racial/Ethnic and socioeconomic determinants of health: Investigating behavioral, psychological and social pathways

Summary:  This talk will be centered on a recently approved dissertation proposal that will investigate behavioral, psychological and social (B, P, S) factors as mediating variables in the Race/ethnicity—health outcomes link. Based on a conceptual model that links race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES) to mediators (BPS), and BPS variables to health outcome (H) variables, the primary objective of the study is to investigate if these pathways differ for various races/ethnicities resulting in observed racial/ethnic health disparities. When standard statistical techniques are employed to test several mediation models, SES effects will be controlled for. Reconstructability analysis (RA) will also be used to investigate associations between various components of the conceptual model and select the most important variables for further causal modeling. RA is, then, used to determine paths from race/ethnicity and SES to the mediating variables (BPS) and from BPS to health outcome (H) variables where race/ethnicity and SES interactions are allowed while predicting the mediators (B, P, S).

I am originally from Eritrea. Before I came to PSU, I lived and studied in Nairobi (Kenya) for about a decade where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Education (focus -- mathematics) and an MBA (focus -- international business). Currently, I am a Doctoral candidate in the Systems Science PhD Program at Portland State University. 

Date: April 25, 12:00 - 12:50 pm

Harder House, Room 104
Presenter: Dr. Joshua Fost

Title: Methods in Neural & Cognitive Modeling

Summary: The effort to use computers to understand, and possibly re-create, the behavior of the brain and mind began almost as soon as computers themselves were created in the 1940s. In this talk, I’ll review the methods, assumptions, and challenges associated with a handful of the most prominent approaches, ranging from relatively low-level (sub-neuronal) biophysical simulations, to contemporary large-scale cortical models,  neural networks, the cognitive models in classical artificial intelligence, and finally the “embodied” approach of Brooksian robotics.  

Bio: Dr. Fost is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University in Portland, OR. His primary research interests are in neurophilosophy and computational models of the brain and mind. He teaches courses on science and philosophy of artificial intelligence and artificial life, pseudoscience, and human reasoning. Before coming to PSU, he was Chief Technology Officer for several international companies. He received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Princeton University.

Date:  Friday, May, 2, 2014:  12:00 to 12:50 pm

Where:  Harder House, Room 104

Speaker:  David Percy

Title: Spatial Informatics and the Semantic Web

The Semantic Web was envisioned by Tim Berniers-Lee (inventor of the
WWW) as the next generation of the WWW in which all of the information
on the web is categorized such that it is understandable both by
machines and humans. It is also know as the Web 3.0.

The spatial version is involved in making GIS data available as
pervasive web services. This will allow researchers and other users to
use intelligent queries (or agents) to find exactly what they are
looking for using sophisticated queries on concepts from ontologies
where concepts are classified hierarchically such that a term "knows"
that it is part of one or more concept, and contains other subjects.
This is essentially the study of mereology (wholes and parts).

One of the many difficulties in making this vision real is getting
stakeholders to agree on a common set of semantic and syntactic
decisions regarding how their discipline's data are organized. This
talk will be about the current state of this broad subject, with a
focus on how it applies to Geology, which is primarily the author's
domain. Example maps will be shown.

David Percy has been the Geospatial Data Manager for Portland State
University's Geology Department since 1998. Before that, he spent 15
years as a database manager and programmer in the field of medical
research. He retrained as a geologist in order to use his skills in
the field of Earth Science. Since 1999 he has taught technology
courses related to GIS, developing new courses such as GIS for the
Natural Sciences, GIS Programming (Python) and Web GIS at the
university. He recently (2012) added a Geoinformatics (Spatial
Informatics, now) course to the curriculum, and in 2014 made it into
an online course.

"Percy", as he is known by friends and colleagues, is actively
involved in the Open Source GIS movement through OSGEO and co-founded
the Portland area OSGeo chapter in 2008, which is hosting the
international FOSS4G conference in 2014. He has also initiated the
process for PSU to become an ICA-OSGeo lab.

His work in the domains of glaciology, coastal studies and web mapping
has been published in several journals and open file reports. He is
currently collaborating on a GIS Programming textbook. Percy has also
used the open source tools mentioned above to collaborate on building
high-availability, responsive web-mapping applications for State and
Federal agencies.

Date:  Friday, May 9, 2014:  12:00 to 12:50 pm

Where:  Harder House, Room 104

SpeakerGeoffrey Duh

Title: Characterizing Computational Complexity in Geographic Optimization Problems

Summary: Most geographic allocation problems are combinatorial optimization problems that cannot be solved in polynomial time when the size of the problem increases. Such problems usually are "solved" (or approximated) by meta-heuristic approaches, such as simulated annealing, tabu search, and genetic algorithm. Meta-heuristic methods use various search strategies to explore and exploit the solution space until near-optimal solutions are located. This talk introduces the use of simulated annealing for solving geographic optimization problems that have spatial patterns as the decision objectives and ways of improving the computational performance of simulated annealing. An empirical approach to characterizing the computational complexity of geographic optimization problems is also presented.

Bio: Dr. Geoffrey Duh is an Associate Professor and Director of GIS Programs in Geography at Portland State University. He has a bachelor and a master degree in geography from National Taiwan University and a PhD in Nature Resources and Environment from the University of Michigan. His research focuses on developing geo-computational theory and techniques for the integration of GIS and remote sensing in spatial decision-making. He uses spatial modeling, simulation, and optimization techniques in applications such as land-use planning, emergency planning, and resources management. His most recent projects involve developing GIS for water forecasting for the National Water and Climate Center at the US Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) and the prototyping of web-based GIS for performance-based budgeting for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Date:  Friday, May 16, 2014:  12:00 to 12:50 pm

Where:  Harder House, Room 104

SpeakerMarek Perkowski

Title: A Pair of Guide Robots for PSU

Summary:  Since Fall of 2011 my students and me design a pair of companion robots to become guides for the Maseeh School of Engineering and Computer Science at PSU. The robots are built upon request of Dean of Engineering to guide various groups of visitors to two engineering buildings.  Although they belong to what is called “the Museum Guide robots”, some additional properties are being designed and programmed for them.
The first robot, called MCECSBOT, or Mr. Jeeves unofficially, is a human-sized humanoid robot on wheels designed from scratch. He is supposed to have a personality of a kind butler. The second robot, called Countess Quanta is a wheeled robot based on commercial robot PEOPLE-BOT design, with added arms and head. The name comes from her ability to count on fingers and her brain based on quantum logic, as well as a proud  personality and manners of this robot.
The talk will briefly present issues of mechanical, electrical, sensor, and system design of the robots but will concentrate on human-robot interface and Machine Learning/Robot Vision work done in our team since 2010. The issues of designing personalities of robots will be also touched upon as an introduction to discussion.

Bio: Marek Perkowski obtained his M.S. degree in Electronics and Ph.D. Degree in automatic control from Institute of Automatic Control, Department of Electronics, Technical University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland. He studied also pure mathematics at University of Warsaw. In years 1981-1983 he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Since 1983 Dr. Perkowski works for Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Portland State University where he is a full professor and director of Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. He worked for Cypress Semiconductor (co-author of WARP, the first FPGA compiler of VHDL), Intel Supercomputer, Sharp Microelectronics, GTE and other companies in areas of computer architecture, CAD tools for logic synthesis and image processing.

Dr. Perkowski invented Kronecker Decision Diagrams and lattices and contributed to logic synthesis software that is used in US industry. In 1994 he worked for Machine Learning group in Wright Laboratories of U.S. Air Force applying logic decomposition as a machine learning approach to pattern recognition and continued this work on several grants.

He is an author of more than 330 papers in CAD, logic synthesis, multiple-valued logic, machine learning, robotics and quantum computing and his research is highly cited.  He had visiting professor and visiting scientist positions in the Netherlands, France, Japan and Korea. In years 2002-2004 he was professor in KAIST – Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology where he participated in research on humanoid robotics and quantum computing.

He chaired the IEEE Technical Committee on Multiple-Valued Logic in years 2003-2005 and was a chair of IEEE Computational Intelligence Society Task Force on Quantum Computing 2006 - 2007. His main current interests are in quantum circuits and algorithms, humanoid bipeds, emotional quantum robots, robotics for teenagers and Grover algorithm. He collaborates with many groups worldwide.

Dr. Perkowski works with very talented middle-school and high-school students on projects related to quantum computing, intelligent robotics and image processing. Since 2001, the students that he supervised obtained more than 45 awards in US national and international science fairs and competitions.

His main research area is quantum computing – how to build a new generations of computers based on principles of quantum mechanics. These computers will be significantly more powerful than all contemporary standard computers.

Date: Friday,  May 23, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  
Location: Harder House, Room 104
Presenter: Ryan Pelkey
Title: Using Discrete Simulation to Mitigate Workload Variability

Summary:  This talk will cover my investigation of ways to mitigate workload variability for a local utility company. Using discrete event simulation in Arena i test a variety of measures to reduce input variability in hopes of stabilizing down-stream workloads. These tactics have limited impact on workloads but led to insight about the company's sensitivity to resource capacity variability. i will walk through the background, methods, and my ultimate conclusions about how the company can best reduce workload variability.

Bio: Ryan Pelkey graduated with a masters degree in Systems Science in December. Recently completed a Hatfield Fellowship investigating physician-scientist and their impact at OHSU. Professional interests include public policy and program evaluation and decentralized development rules to make cities more livable. Prefers cookies to cake and/or pretty much anything else.

Date: Friday,  May 30, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  
Location: Harder House, Room 104
Vivek Shandas

Title: Integrating Top-Down and Bottom-Up Datasets: Exploring participatory mapping for city planning

Although collaborative governance has become a common term in managing cities, techniques for engaging ‘the publics’ in collective decision-making remain underdeveloped. Several limitations -- including access to lower income people or people of color, processes for sustaining engagement, and balancing the technical and socio-political dimensions -- prevent broadly inclusive processes in collaborative governance. Needed are techniques that solicit information about resources of value, as well as their locations and an understanding about local priorities for conservation. Arguably, linking these local or 'bottom up' perspectives with traditional urban planning information can result in decisions that are viable, context-specific, and sustainable. We use a locally developed, online, spatially-explicit survey tool, the Sustaining Urban Places Research Map ( <> ) to engage community members and describe the assets of their neighborhood. By presenting a framework for linking people, process, and technology, we describe an engagement process containing several neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon. This presentation will describe several promising practices and consistent challenges in using online spatially-explicit participatory processes in city planning, especially when aiming to bridge the gap between expert and local influence in decision-making. The case study further describes the process for integrating local knowledge about a neighborhood (bottom-up information) with data from public agencies (top-down information), thereby offering a mechanism for ensuring that local knowledge about a neighborhood is is considered in collaborative governance processes.

Bio: I am an Associate Professor in the Nohad A. Toulan School of  Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. As the founder of PSU's Sustaining Urban Places Research Lab (SUPR Lab, <> ), our team focuses on three  substantive areas of investigation: (1) examining feedbacks between  environmental change and human behavior; (2) developing community-based  indicators for measuring the social and environmental conditions; and (3) characterizing the relationship between urban development  patterns and environmental quality. Prior to serving at Portland State University, I  was a school teacher in Oregon (Vernonia); curriculum developer in California (San Jose); and, a health and environmental policy  analyst for the Governor of New York State (Albany).

Date: Friday,  June 6, 2014, 12:00 - 12:50 PM  
Location: Harder House, Room 104
 Presenter: Andreas Udbye

Title:  India at a Crossroads: Can the country overcome its challenges to become a global contender?

Summary: The presenter will discuss his recent doctoral dissertation, “Supply Chain Risk Management in India: An Empirical Study of Sourcing and Operations Disruptions, their Frequency, Severity, Mitigation Methods, and Expectations”. The results themselves are interesting, but perhaps even more intriguing will be a discussion of underlying factors and causalities. The Indian economy is complex and the many risks and systemic problems are intertwined. In addition to completing his dissertation the presenter just finished teaching an upper division course, “The Business, Culture and Politics of India and South Asia” at the University of Puget Sound.

Bio: Andreas is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Business & Leadership at the University of Puget Sound, where he is teaching international business courses. He also teaches global supply chain management at UPS, University of Washington Tacoma, and Pacific Lutheran University. He is an avid world traveler, and just a few days before this presentation came back from leading a group of UPS students on a Business Brigade trip to Panama. Andreas has more than 25 years of experience as an executive, entrepreneur and ship broker in the international trade and transportation sector, part of it spent in Europe and Asia.  
From 2001 through 2007, Andreas was the Executive Director of the World Trade Center Tacoma. In 2011-2012 he chaired the World Affairs Council Tacoma and is currently Treasurer. He is an appointed member of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s District Export Council, a board member of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Council for Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), and an active member of the Tacoma Transportation Club. In addition to his forthcoming Ph.D. from PSU’s Systems Science : Business Administration program, he earned an MBA from the University of Washington in Seattle and a BBA from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.


Spring 2013 SCHEDULE


Date: April 7th, 2013

Presenter: Dr. Martin Zwick

Title: "Freedom as a Natural Phenomenon"

Summary: "This phenomenon of “freedom” in the natural world – and indirectly the question of free will – is explored using systems-theoretic concepts that link the idea of freedom to ideas about autonomy and agency. The focus is on living systems in general, and on living systems that have cognitive subsystems more specifically. After touching on the relevance to freedom of determinism vs. randomness, the paper examines four types of freedom: (i) independence from fixed materiality, (ii) activeness that is unblocked and holistic, (iii) internal rather than external determination, and (iv) regulation by an informational subsystem. These types of freedom are not all-or-nothing but matters of degree."

A link to the pdf is available here:

Bio: Martin Zwick received his Bachelor's Degree in physics from Columbia University in 1960. He served as a Project Officer in the Physics Branch of the Office of Naval Research while in military service during 1960-63. He did graduate work in Biophysics at MIT and was awarded his Ph.D. in 1968. After a postdoctoral year in the Stanford University Department of Biochemistry, he took a position as a faculty member in the Department of Biophysics and Theoretical Biology at the University of Chicago. His research in this period was in mathematical crystallography and macromolecular structure. In the 1970's his interests shifted to systems theory and methodology, and since 1976 he has been on the faculty of the Systems Science Ph.D. Program at PSU. During the years 1984-1989, he was Coordinator, then Director, of the Program. His main research interests (click on Research above) are in discrete multivariate modeling, artificial life/theoretical biology, and systems philosophy. He teaches courses (click on Courses above) in these areas and in systems theory and game theory.

Remote Participation:


Date: Friday, April 12th, 2013, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

Location: Harder House, Room 104

Presenter: Erin Kenzie

Title: Report from the 2013 International Conference on Social Computing, Behavioral-Cultural Modeling, and Prediction

Summary: In this session, Erin Kenzie will report back on her experience at the SBP 2013 conference, which took place this month in Washington, DC ( This conference brought together systems scientists and behavioral and social scientists to discuss research related to social media, agent-based simulation, social network analysis, game theory, and other modeling tools, as well as their various applications. The conference also featured a panel presentation by representatives from several federal funding agencies. Erin will recap the highlights of the conference and facilitate a discussion about some of the main themes in this informal session. Below is a link the conference proceedings:

Bio: Erin Kenzie is a first-year doctoral student in Systems Science. Before coming to PSU, she earned degrees in Sustainability Science (MS), Psychology (BA) and Philosophy (BA). Her main research interest is to inform the development of urban-scale sustainability initiatives through systems modeling and behavioral science. She is particularly interested in the role of mental models and implicit theories of behavior in sustainability management.


Date: Friday, April 19th, 2013, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

Location: Harder House, Room 104

Presenter: Christan Echt

Title: Using Equality as a Means to Sustain Cooperation in Iterated Prisoner's Dilemmas

Summary: In The Evolution of Cooperation, Robert Axelrod discusses the wide-spread applicability of the iterated PD and how cooperation in such a setup might be achieved and maintained. In The Complexity of Cooperation, he elaborates on how his original maxims might need to be modified to account for noise, or even for the arrival of agents/subjects who might not be innately inclined to cooperate. Christan attempts to build on this by exploring the prospect of using egalitarianism as a proxy metric innately cooperative agents could use to sustain cooperative environments in the face of some noise or agents/subjects who are disinclined to cooperate.

Bio: Christan Echt is a PhD Systems Science program at Portland State University.

Remote participation Link:


Date: 4/26/2013

Date: Friday, April 26th, 2013, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

Location: Harder House, Room 104

Title Materialism, personal food projects, and satisfaction: a phenomenological study of Urban Gardening in Portland, Oregon

Abstract: Leisure activities such as gardening and cooking are often correlated with increased well-being and happiness. Additionally, leisure activities such as gardening and food preparation are often internally motivated, and provide observable examples of self-concordant experiences. Self-concordance, i.e., internalized motivation, has been shown to increase satisfaction and increase efficacy of goal attainment. Further, experiential hobbies such as gardening may help individuals feel more satisfied, adopt more intrinsic life aspirations, and be less materialistic.

This study explored satisfaction, materialism, and food activities by focusing on first-person, lived experiences of eight urban gardeners in Portland Oregon who grow, prepare, and eat their own food. Little is known about what specific food experiences lead to increased feelings of well-being and satisfaction. Whereas previous research focused on defining and assessing materialism based on life aspiration measures, this study explored how intrinsic life aspirations translate into concrete, lived experiences expressed through food activities. The goal of the current study was to gain a deeper understanding of how food experiences satisfied the psychological needs of urban gardeners.

Qualitative analysis of interviews and other data revealed that food experiences: 1) were motivated by intrinsic reasons, such as competency, creativity, and curiosity, and also sometimes for extrinsic reasons such as status and security, 2) were affected by enabling factors such as social relationships, and disabling factors such as time, energy, and financial limitations, and 3) resulted in increased life satisfaction, and feelings of strength, and confidence. Additionally, participants’ level of general materialism often corresponded with their level of materialism regarding their food experiences.

The results indicated that individually tailored experiential long-term food related hobbies are highly valued and a source of great satisfaction for a variety of psychological needs, such as relatedness, connection, work-life balance, and abundance. These results show that food activities can be intrinsically satisfying and can mitigate the negative effects of materialism. The findings from this study build theory and provide direction for potential future research in reducing materialism by developing measures for types of satisfaction from food activities and testing correlations with materialism and life satisfaction.

Bio: As a PhD candidate, Robin is interested in applying Systems Science to a variety of qualitative and quantitative research techniques about sustainability and materialism. She is an avid urban gardener, enthusiastic knitter, and is working on cooking all the recipes in Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Remote Participation:


Dates: Friday, May 3rd and May 10th, 2013, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

Location: Harder House, Room 104

Presenter: Hugo du Coudray

Title: Why did we invent General Systems Theory? Speculations on Human Nature (part 1)

Summary: Is the enterprise of Systems Science aimed essentially at a problem arising from Human Nature? We will say that it is.  The argument will entail the principle that "to know" is "to know the difference," and that discriminations require comparisons. Recent science has opened a new window on the question of Human Nature. We will connect those clues to the rise of philosophy, the work of Mario Bunge, and to Systems Science.

Bio: Hugo du Coudray is Professor Emeritus of Psychology in Portland State University and Adjunct Professor in the School of Medicine, OHSU. He taught courses in Learning, Perception, Personality, Psychopathology, Community Psychology and History & Systems, one of the last cross-listed with Systems Science. His research work is in treatment of mental illness and the effects of brain injury. Important mentors during his education include Fred Attneave, Richard A. Littman, Albert Bandura, Karl Pribram, Gregory Bateson, Arnold Lazarus and G. W. Fairweather.

Remote Participation (May 10th):




Winter 2013 Announcements

DATE: Friday, January 11, 2013 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

PRESENTER: Dora Raymaker,

TITLE: Social, Political, and Ethical Considerations with Minority Representation in Knowledge Production

SUMMARY: Gross transgressions against minorities are in part responsible for the implementation of modern ethical research standards. However, deep issues remain embedded within the knowledge production system which can serve to reinforce marginalization and oppression. Using a discussion format and examples primarily drawn from disabilities research, this talk examines four interrelated aspects of social, political, and ethical concerns with respect to minorities in science:

1) Frames, past and present, of transgressions, paternalism, and power imbalances;

2) Relationships between knowledge and power, including questions of what constitutes "legitimate" scientific knowledge;

3) Impacts on science and policy of minority inclusion (and lack of inclusion) as participants, researchers, and reviewers;

4) Solutions via community-engaged research practices--as well as potential for these practices to generate new ethical dilemmas.

BIO: Dora Raymaker, MS co-directs the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE,, a community-campus partnership conducting research to improve the lives of adults on the autism spectrum. She serves in leadership positions in the developmental disabilities community, including with the Oregon Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Oregon Self-Advocacy Coalition. Her& research interests include community-engaged practices, measurement adaptation and knowledge translation, and dynamics at the intersection of science, society, and public policy. Ms. Raymaker primarily conducts research in collaboration with the developmental disabilities community. She is currently a Systems Science PhD student.


Date: Friday, January 18th, 2013, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

Location: Harder House, Room 104

Presenter: Alex Johnson

Title: "A Credible, Transparent, Turn-key Solution: what it takes to make water quality trading work"

Summary: The quality, credibility and transparency of water quality trading programs are critical. Strict standards governing the creation and use of offset credits provide assurances regulators need and the public expects to protect and enhance water quality. The Freshwater Trust has developed a transparent turn-key approach to water quality compliance that removes risk and uncertainty for facility managers, making the purchase of water quality credits a viable compliance alternative for addressing excess thermal or nutrient loads. As agencies set water quality limits for wastewater facilities, permittees need practical solutions to meet tough new requirements. Recently, conservation organizations and regulators came to an agreement on methods to calculate and quantify the temperature benefit of planting riparian trees. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality approved these standards and protocols, clearing the way for quantified benefits from restoration actions to be registered as credits and used by permittees to comply with regulatory requirements. With regulator-approved metrics and infrastructure to track performance in place, The Freshwater Trust has developed a model that can finance all project costs on the front-end, and then sell the measured, quantified ecological benefit, or credit, to facilities to meet compliance requirements, without financial and performance risk for permittees.

Bio: Alex Johnson is Ecosystem Services Manager for The Freshwater Trust, Alex is deeply involved in the analysis, development and implementation of the first water quality trading programs in the Pacific Northwest. His economics and logistics background helps him to manage both credit-generating project supply chains and market expansion and enhancement efforts. Prior to his work with the Trust, he spent over a year of planning and building a 16-mile ‘conservation tourism’ trail on the west coast of Ecuador which involved many of the same themes of landowner recruitment and natural design inherent in restoration work, and currently functions as a ‘Payment for Ecosystem Services’ program due to conservation contracts with local property owners. Before Ecuador, he worked in refined petroleum trading and logistics for a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley in Denver, CO.

Remote Participation Link:


Date: Friday, January 25th, 2013, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

Location: Harder House, Room 104

Presenter: Rich Jolly

Title: Econophysics – A Systems Science View of Markets?

Summary: The field of Econophysics will be explored and considered as a systems science view of markets. The field will be placed within a framework of existing inquiry systems used for Economics. The tenants of classical economic theories based on the efficient market hypothesis, random walk of prices and finally the Gaussian distribution will be briefly reviewed for context as their idiosyncrasies represent a driving force for Econophysics. The current key players, practices, status and some important methods will be reviewed. Finally an attempt at a reconciliation between the two methods will be proposed.

Bio: Rich Jolly received his PhD in Systems Science and School of Business Administration from Portland State University. He is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Systems Science Graduate Program and is developing a new class for Spring 2013 - 'Systems Thinking for Business.' Rich is also evaluating the use of systems science ideas in the area of financial markets.

Remote Participation Link:


Date: Friday, February 1st, 2013, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

Location: Harder House, Room 104

Presenter: John Driscoll

Title: "Fractals, Scaling and the Complexity of Cities"

Summary: Cities are simultaneously the physical manifestation of buildings and infrastructure or hardware as well as the software and wetware& of socio-economic systems and biological/ecological systems. Fractal cartography, cellular automata simulation, genetic algorithms and statistical physics are some of the novel tools that are being used to explore these deeply interconnected systems. The emerging science of cities is an interdisciplinary effort with that draw on disparate domains: philosophy, artificial life, agent based modeling/design, system dynamics, information theory and machine learning.

With over half the world’s population living in cities and millions more moving to them every year, an understanding of large-scale patterns occurring in cities is crucially important. The matter gains additional urgency when even larger scale phenomena such as global warming, resource depletion and human efforts at sustainability are considered.

John has been developing ‘chapters’ in an online resource called Complexity Explorer, including fractal geometry, biological scaling and the complexity of cities. This talk will include a walk-through of some of these materials.

Bio: John Driscoll is an architect and Ph.D student of Systems Science at Portland State University. He has worked with and credits as mentors, Dean Bryant Vollendorf Professor Emeritus, UNCC and George Hascup AAP, Cornell University. John is primarily interested is in the rationalization of city planning and the emerging field of the science of cities, the goal being to apply theory and methods from complex systems science to the research, analysis and design of urban environments.

Remote Participation Link:


Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

Location: Harder House, Room 104

Presenter: Rajesh Venkatachalapathy

Title: Essence(s) of the Higgs Boson

Summary: Signature of this elusive particle was observed at CERN recently. If confirmed, this particle completes the jig-saw puzzle that the high-energy physics community has been putting together for several decades. It is yet another example of the guiding force of beauty helping us find the truth. Not only that, it turns out that in this case, the beautiful also helps us achieve the good. The mathematics of the higgs boson illustrates the inseparability of the true, the good and the beautiful.

This talk will explore the mathematical world of symmetries through the eyes of (particle) physics and will end with an illustration of its immense utility in understanding and solving extremely mundane real-world problems.

Bio: Rajesh Venkatachalapathy is a doctoral student in the Systems Science Graduate Program. His dissertation aims to build formal models of behavior of agents using tools from linguistics and dynamical systems.

Remote participation Link:


Date: Friday, February 15th, 2013, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

Location: Harder House, Room 104

Presenter: Dr. Steven Bleiler

Title: "Modeling with computational probability" 

Summary: "A fresh approach to the problem of modeling risk and uncertainty, an approach without an appeal to sampling based methods, is presented, with the goal of bringing to Computational Probability the accessibility and progress recently seen with the advent and application of Computational Geometry. The approach here involves the direct computation of random variables and of certain algorithmic combinations thereof, complementary and in contrast to the sampling based methods capitalized on by the Baysians.

The direct calculation approach frequently offers considerable savings in computational resources when compared to traditional sampling based methods. In many cases, a model now having random variable(as opposed to sharp) inputs needs only be run once to obtain quality resolutions of the distributions for the now random variable (as opposed to sharp) outputs. This is in contrast to the many thousands, millions, or even billions of runs required by the more traditional Monte Carlo based methodology to obtain a similar level of resolution.

Applications include classic constrained optimization, extending, for example, linear programmatic techniques from sharp to random variable inputs with the corresponding change in outputs. Many models and stochastic processes employed in Financial Analysis, e.g. Black-Scholes Pricing, can be similarly upgraded to accept random variable inputs."

Remote Participation Link:


Date: Friday, February 22nd, 2013, 12:00 - 12:50 PM

Location: Harder House, Room 104

Presenter: Kirby Urner

Title: 'Pythonic Andragogy: Python for Adults'

Summary: This talk explores issues around adult education and which looks to the future of education in our digital age. Mathematical developments (e.g. fractals, cellular automata) exciting to Systems Science are percolating their way through the groundwater and new curricula are forming that re-propagate these memes. Kirby's talk is suggestive of what these new curricula might look like. He most recently presented this talk at the Portland Python User Group of which he is a co-organizer and active member. Kirby is also a member of the Python Software Foundation (

Bio: Kirby Urner's journey has included teaching high school math in Jersey City, database programming for hospitals, and textbook editing.

He earned his bachelor's degree from Princeton University where he studied philosophy (under Richard Rorty and Walter Kaufmann) and computer science.

Later, he developed an interest in Bucky Fuller's philosophy that led him to participate in the development of early Web 1.0 projects. His name appears in the credits of Bucky Works by J. Baldwin, Historical Dictionary of Wittgenstein's Philosophy by Duncan Richter, and the O'Reilly book Using Google App Engine, among others.

During the first PC revolution, Kirby helped non-profits and NGOs adapt to the new world of affordable computing. His clients included the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan (Druk Yul), where he taught database programming and helped build a telex billing system.

Remote participation Link:


Presenter: Mark Lakeman

Title: Urban Permaculture

Summary: Mark Lakeman is the co-founder of the non-profit placemaking organization The City Repair Project, and principal of the community design firm Communitecture. Mr. Lakeman has taken on the role of creative urban place-maker and community design facilitator in his commitment to the emergence of a sustainable cultural landscape. He seeks to make every design project one which will further the development of a community vision, whether it involves urban design and placemaking, ecological building, encourages community interaction, or assists those who typically do not have access to design services. His leadership in the City Repair Project has benefited communities across the North American continent including cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, and Ottawa where City Repair Projects are underway.

Stories of Mr. Lakeman’s projects have been told widely, including in such publications as Dwell, Architecture Magazine, New Village Journal, Yes magazine, and The Utne Reader. With City Repair, in 2003 Mark was awarded the National Lewis Mumford Award by the international organization Architects & Planners for Social Responsibility for his work with Dignity Village, one of the United States’ first self-developed, permanent communities by and for previously homeless people.

Bio: Mark is a national leader in the development of sustainable public places. In the last decade he has directed or facilitated designs for more than three hundred new community-generated public places in Portland, Oregon alone. Through his leadership in Communitecture, Inc., and it’s 501c3 affiliate, The City Repair Project, he has also been instrumental in the development of dozens of participatory design projects and organizations across the United States and Canada. Mark works with governmental leaders, community organizations, and educational institutions in many diverse communities.

Remote Participation:


Presenter: Max Orhai

Title: Asynchronous parallel computation of cellular automata

Abstract: Cellular automata (CAs) are a broad class of discrete dynamical systems with spatial structure. Even very simple CA systems have been show to be "Turing complete" --- theoretically as powerful as any sequential computer. Their early development was roughly contemporary with that of conventional sequential computer technology, and they have proven useful for modeling a wide variety of spatially distributed parallel systems in the natural sciences. However, CAs have largely remained an abstract model, whose concrete instantiations have generally been in the form of software emulations running on sequential computers. The increasing availability of parallel forms of computation (such as multi-core and graphics processor architectures) offers new possibilities for practical uses of CAs and other forms of parallel computing --- as well as significant challenges involving timing and coordination.

In this talk I will discuss some of the issues involved in adapting CAs to practical parallel computers, and demonstrate some basic techniques for ensuring both correctness and efficient use of memory without relying on central control or strict timing guarantees.

Bio: Max Orhai is a mathematics and computer science student at PSU.

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(past seminar links and records can be found on our Seminar Archive page)