Systems Science Seminar Series


The Systems Science Seminar Series covers a wide range of topics, providing an opportunity for presenters to share and attendees to become exposed to the latest 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.

Unless otherwise specified, SySc Seminars are held on Fridays from 12-1PM, in Harder House Room 104, throughout Fall and Winter terms. For those taking the seminar for credit, grading is based on attendance, either in-person or remote.

CONTACT US: If you have questions, comments, or topic/speaker suggestions, or if you would like to present a seminar, please email Wayne Wakeland at

SEMINAR ANNOUNCEMENT LISTSERVE: To receive seminar announcements, you can join our mailing list. If that doesn't work, please email Wayne Wakeland at

A list of previous seminar announcements and recordings can be found on our Seminar Archive page.

Winter 2020 Seminar Schedule

01/10/20 — Teresa Schmidt "Statistical Analysis of Social Network Change" announcement  link to video recording

01/17/20 —  Dale Frakes "Modeling the Affect Heuristic: Systems Dynamics and Agent-based Approaches" announcement  no recording

01/24/20 —  David Percy "Using GIS raster data analysis with Reconstructability Analysis tools" announcement  link to video recording

01/31/20 —  Marcus Harris "Application of Reconstructability Analysis to the NW Power Grid" link to video recording

02/07/20 —  Dora Raymaker "Realist evaluation: A systems approach for understanding and assessing complex social programs" announcement  link to video recording  link to ppt presentation

02/14/20 —  Shelby Weiss "Modeling post-fire successional trajectories under climate change in interior Alaska using Landis II"  announcement  link to video recording  link to slides

02/21/20 — Gary Langford "What is not a systems" announcement  remote  link to video recording

02/28/20 — Pete Roolf   "Framing Wicked Problems: Harnessing Collective Intelligence with Participatory Modeling and Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping"  announcement   link to video recording

03/06/20 —  Josh Keeling "Comparison of diffusion mechanisms for differing classes of distributed energy services"  announcement   link to video recording

03/13/20 — Christan Echt "Do. Or Do Not.* An Introduction to Urnomics"  announcement  link to video recording


Fall 2019 Seminar Schedule

09/27/19  Systems Science Fall Welcome Party (open to all)

10/04/19 — Dale Frakes and Janne Boone-Heinonen, "Agent based modeling of intergenrational obesity" announcement   link to recording

10/11/19 — Wayne Wakeland, "A computational model for recovery from brain injury" announcement   link to recording slides

10/18/19 — Steve Staloff, "Motivating the quickest possible economic transition to low fossil fuel use: theory and application" announcement  link to recording 

10/25/19 — Pete Roolf, "Clinical systemics: towards an integrated framework and methodology for alleviating pathologies in complex systems" announcement 

11/01/19 — Paul Loikith, "Using Large-Scale Meteorological Patterns to Better Understand Local-Scale Weather and Climate Extremes" announcement  link to recording 

11/08/19 — Neil Babson, "Computing complex tasks with dynamical cellular systems" announcement  link to recording 

11/15/19 — Howard Silverman, "Recursive identity and purposeful change" announcement  link to recording

11/22/19 — Dave Lawrence, "Computational integration for augmenting human cognition" announcement  link to recording

11/29/19  HOLIDAY 

12/06/19— Rajesh Venkatachalapathy, "Computational Social Science Society of Americas (CSSA) conferences as a venue for publication and outreach" announcement   link to recording

Winter 2019 Seminar Schedule

01/11/2019 — Jasper Alt, "Mobile Geometric Graphs as Null Models for Homophily" [announcement] [recording] [slides]
01/18/2019 — Hector Dominguez, "The Complexities of Open Data" [announcement] [recording] [slides]
01/25/2019 — no seminar
02/01/2019 — Gary Langford, "What if our beliefs about a system are not wholly accurate? What if?" [announcement] [recording] [slides]
02/08/2019 — Martin Zwick, "Diachronics of Redemption: A Systems-Theoretic Exploration of Rosenzweig's Star" [announcement] [no recording]
02/15/2019 — Rajesh Venkatachalapathy, "Performativity of Models" [announcement] [recording] [slides]
02/22/2019 — John Blyler, "IoT and Digitization Will Reconnect System Engineering and Science" [announcement] [recording] [slides]
03/01/2019 — Elizabeth Lockwood, "Systems Thinking as a Design Process" [announcement] [recording] [slides]
03/08/2019 — Katie Clift, "Managing healthcare data assets as a complex adaptive system" [announcement] [recording] [slides]
03/15/2019 — John Driscoll, "Fractal dimension as objective function in a genetic algorithm for application in architectural design" [announcement] [remote participation] [slides]

Winter 2020 Announcements




DATE: Friday, March 6, 2020, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

REMOTE PARTICIPATION: remote participation link

PRESENTER: Josh Keeling

PRESENTATION TITLE: Adoption patterns in the diffusion of distributed energy resources


Given the growing trends towards decentralization and decarbonization of the power sector, there is an increasing need to understand how customers make energy decisions at a more granular level. This is largely because the adoption of distributed resources and increasing electrification are making it clear that often costs and benefits to the grid are both highly locational and time dependent. This presentation will discuss foundational work in solar diffusion studies and emerging research work on the co-adoption patterns of different types of energy investments (efficiency, solar, electric vehicles, demand response) on the distribution grid.


Josh Keeling is PhD student in systems science at PSU, where he also received his masters with a focus on applied statistics, information theory, simulation and model theory, and organizational dynamics. He also received a BS in economics from PSU. He is currently a Sr Product Manager at LO3 Energy, a local software startup that develops transactive energy solutions for clients globally. He has previously held leadership roles in Distribution Resource Planning and Customer Energy Solutions at Portland General Electric and in Statistical Analysis at the Cadmus Group.




DATE: Friday, February 28, 2020, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

REMOTE PARTICIPATION: remote participation link

PRESENTER: Peter Roolf


Framing Wicked Problems: Harnessing Collective Intelligence with Participatory Modeling and Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping


Wicked problems are issues facing human social systems that are persistent or
reoccurring, have difficult-to-detect origins, complex networks of causation, and that respond to
interventions by generating undesirable unintended consequences. This talk will briefly outline
how the idea of collective intelligence may provide valuable insight towards framing these
problems and how participatory modeling and fuzzy cognitive mapping techniques can be used
to harness this insight. These techniques will be explored in a short collaborative modeling
session using the web-based, open source Mental Modeler software. For attendees wishing to
bring their laptop to the session please visit ahead of
time to register for free use of the software.


Peter is a Systems Science PhD student at Portland State University where he completed
a master’s degree following his study of general systems theory, complex adaptive systems,
and computer modeling & simulation. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Emergency Medicine
from the University of Pittsburgh, worked as a paramedic domestically and abroad, and served
as the lead technical consultant for an emergency medical service (EMS) development project
in Kerala, India. In 2019 Peter won the Sir Geoffrey Vickers Memorial Award from the
International Society for the Systems Sciences for preliminary development of his “clinical
systemics” framework, a concept which seeks to generalize isomorphic patterns from modern
medicine for the purpose of remedying pathologies in complex living systems. Peter co-founded
the Cascadia Systems Institute as a vehicle for utilizing these concepts in a public policy
context, furthering his ultimate goal of assisting local and regional communities, governments,
and organizations in becoming more resilient, self-sufficient, and healthy in a changing world.





DATE: Friday, February 21, 2020, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

REMOTE PARTICIPATION: remote participation link

PRESENTER: Gary Langford


What is Not a Systems?


The difficulties in applying General Systems Theory (GST) have pointed out notable inconsistencies in what needs to be included in GST, intransitivities between competing or subsidiary theories based on GST and a plethora of definitions for a system. GST made significant inroads into creating awareness for systemsness and stimulate a revolution in thinking. However, the appropriate degree of precision for GST as a theory fails to be a scientific theory, fails to provide a framework for interpreting systemsness, fails as a model of concomitance of parts to whole, fails to predict, fails to clarify, and fails to state properties applicable to and found in all systems. A property-based approach to constructing a neo-definition of systems is proposed. The result is to enliven the discussion leading to a Neo-General Systems Theory (N-GST). N-GST must build on the successes of GST to explain what GST cannot, be grounded in empirical data and be testable, explain mechanisms and conditions that enable systemness, describe the logico that results in a finer analysis of consequence, incorporate all aspects of and predicts what cannot be predicted with GST, and be extended by means of modal operators for mereological essentialism. Out of N-GST should come a definitive definition of systems for all disciplines, fields, and applications. Finding the general principles is the science of systems. Identifying integration and interoperability problems, and evaluating and enhancing performances is the engineering of system.   




Gary Langford is a serial entrepreneur founding five companies, taking one public on Nasdaq; was executive vice president of a merchant bank; a Nasa Ames research fellow with 2 space missions to Mars; a systems engineer working for multiple aerospace companies; and for 19 years, teaching systems engineering at Portland State University, Naval Postgraduate School, and Stanford University. He has an A.B. in Astronomy (UC Berkeley), M.S. in Physics (Cal State University, Hayward), and Ph.D. in Electronics and Engineering (University of South Australia). Dr. Langford’s research is focused on integration and interoperability of systems.



DATE: Friday, February 14, 2020, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

REMOTE PARTICIPATION: remote participation link

PRESENTER: Shelby Weiss


Modeling post-fire successional trajectories under climate change in interior Alaska using Landis II


Alaska boreal forest ecosystems are experiencing a greater frequency of wildfire relative to the region’s historic fire regime. These increases in fire frequency, as well as annual burned area, increase the probability of forests re-burning within shorter intervals than were experienced historically. Such changes to the fire regime have the potential to shift successional trajectories in this ecosystem. To better understand potential changes in vegetation composition following short-interval, repeat fires, we are using LANDIS-II, a forest landscape model, to simulate changes in forest composition in response to climate change and increasing fire frequency. This seminar will include a description of LANDIS-II and how it is being used to model boreal forest succession in Interior Alaska, as well as preliminary results from initial simulations over a 12 million hectare study landscape. 


Shelby Weiss is a PhD student in the Earth, Environment, and Society Doctoral Program at Portland State University working with Dr. Melissa Lucash. She received a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University and an M.S. from the Environment and Natural Resources Graduate Program at Ohio State University. Her M.S. thesis focused on the social and ecological aspects of managing wildlife in fire-dependent forested ecosystems. Currently, she is studying the effects of increasing fire frequency and climate change on boreal forests in Interior Alaska, using simulation modeling to look at how boreal forests may change in response to short-interval wildfires.




DATE: Friday, February 7, 2020, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104

REMOTE PARTICIPATION: remote participation link

PRESENTER: Dora Raymaker


Realist evaluation: A systems approach for understanding and assessing complex social programs


Realist evaluation, a theory-driven approach to program evaluation grounded in realist philosophy, is designed to address the question: What works for whom, to what extent, in what circumstances, and why? It is emerging as a powerful alternative to traditional approaches to intervention evaluation, such as randomized control trials, particularly in settings of high complexity and/or high stakeholder heterogeneity. Realist evaluation takes a holistic, non-linear, systems approach, and can support any research methodologies. This seminar provides an overview of realist evaluation and discussion of potential applications with programs targeting social change.


Dora Raymaker, Ph.D., is a Research Assistant Professor at Portland State University’s Regional Research Institute for Human Services in the School of Social Work, Co-director of the Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE), and the associate editor of the journal “Autism in Adulthood.” Dr. Raymaker’s research interests broadly include community-engaged practice, systems thinking, measurement, and the dynamics at the intersection of science, society, and public policy. In application, Dr. Raymaker conducts intervention research in collaboration with disability and mental health communities, primarily to improve employment outcomes, increase self-determination, and reduce discrimination and stigma. In the remaining three minutes of free time, Dr. Raymaker enjoys writing fiction and making multimedia art, including science fiction mystery novels Hoshi and the Red City Circuit and Resonance.




DATE : Jan 31, 2020

WHERE: Harder House Room 104 (1604 S.W. 10th Av.)

REMOTE PARTICIPATION: remote participation link

TITLE: Application of Reconstructability Analysis to the NW Power Grid

PRESENTER: Marcus Harris


This talk will focus on preliminary results from Reconstructability Analysis (RA) models, Bayesian Network (BN) models, and standard linear regression to predict dynamics on the bulk electric grid. The best possible prediction models were identified using exploratory RA and BN search algorithms that search the lattice of possible graphs structures to find the best model fit. Preliminary results show that RA and BN both outperform linear regression in overall prediction and prediction in the tails of the distribution, whereas BN marginally outperforms RA overall. In addition to preliminary results, the talk will offer explanations for differences in prediction performance as well as opportunities for extensions of the research.


Marcus Harris is a PSU Systems Science PhD ABD. His research focuses on the theoretical differences between Reconstructability Analysis and Bayesian Networks, both probabilistic graphical modeling methods, working towards unifying the methods into a joint analytical framework.  Additionally his research applies these methods to build better prediction models of certain features of the electric power grid. Marcus works at the Bonneville Power Administration and in prior roles applied these methods to predict outcomes on the NW power grid




DATE : Jan 24, 2020

WHERE: Harder House Room 104 (1604 S.W. 10th Av.)

REMOTE PARTICIPATION: remote participation link

TITLE: Using GIS raster data analysis with Reconstructability Analysis tools

PRESENTER: David Percy


Reconstructability Analysis (RA) has been successfully used to analyze a myriad of different
data types. At its core it relies on a row-based approach to data where each row represents an
observation. RA has been used successfully on time-series data, as well, using a masking

This talk demonstrates using RA on spatial data, specifically GIS landuse raster data sets. This
approach looks at the neighborhood around a target cell and linearizes it into a row of data that
can be processed using RA techniques. This algorithm is sequentially applied to all cells in the
raster data set, similarly to how one would analyze imagery data.

Different neighborhoods are examined, including the Moore, Von Neumann, and 5x5, with
evaluation of the results of each. In the end the Von Neumann neighborhood yielded the best
results, and the RA output proved to be more illustrative of patterns of influence than other
techniques in the GIS arsenal such as Moran’s I. The next phase of development is to combine
the time-series and spatial masks into a space-time cube that can be linearized for analysis.


Percy (David Percy) has been tweaking scientific databases since 1984 starting in medical
research at Legacy Health Systems and Oregon Health Sciences University. During the mid-90s
he retrained as a geologist, joined PSU Geology in 1998 as a data manager, and began
teaching GIS classes in 1999. He has worked on national and international standards for
geologic databases and helped construct comprehensive databases of glaciers and coastal
deposits. Always interested in Systems Science, he began casually taking classes during the
early 90s, eventually completing an MS in Systems Science in 2016, and continues to
collaborate with Marty Zwick on space-time data cubes in RA.



Date: January 17, 2020

Where: Harder House, Room 104 (1604 SW 10th Ave)

Title:  Modeling Affect as a Mediator of Perceived Risk and Benefit

Speaker: Dale Frakes


In this presentation, Dale will present modeling done with Dr. William Burns of Decision Research exploring the role of affect as a mediator in perceived risk and perceived benefit.  In this modeling effort we are developing both a system dynamics model and an agent-based model to explore possible mechanisms that may drive the observed patterns of behavior. 

The dynamic hypothesis behind the model is as follows: Affect (both positive and negative) is the mediating driver behind the counterintuitive negative correlation between perceived risk and perceived benefit observed in experiments and the real world. Affect is influenced directly by increases or decreases in the rate of change of perceived risk and benefit relative to some personal threshold for such change. Negative Affect causes perceived risk to increase and perceived benefit to decrease. Conversely, Positive Affect causes perceived benefit to increase and perceived risk to decrease. Negative Affect is thought to be more influential to the behavior of perceived risk and benefit than Positive Affect. The system dynamics model predicts that the trajectory of perceived risk and benefit following a positive or negative shock will move opposite to each other thus causing the negative correlations reported in the literature.


William Burns completed his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in Decision Science and subsequently held positions as a professor at the University of Iowa and UC Davis before moving to San Diego. He is currently a research scientist at Decision Research (Eugene, OR), an institute that focuses on judgment, decision making and risk perception, and is also associated with the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events at the University of Southern California and the Center for Accelerating Operational Efficiency at Arizona State University.  He has been the guest editor for a special issue in Risk Analysis entitled “Risk Perception and Behaviors: Anticipating and Responding to Crises.” He has also given keynote addresses at the Oregon Health Science University/Portland State University Symposium (2018), International Crisis and Risk Communication Conference (2017), and IEEE Intelligence Security Informatics Annual Conference (2013).

Dale Frakes is a Ph.D. candidate in the Systems Science Program at Portland State University studying under Wayne Wakeland.  He has completed a graduate certificate in Computer Modeling & Simulation and has since worked as a graduate teaching assistant and adjunct instructor for Modeling & Simulation courses at PSU.  He received an MBA with a concentration in Global Business from the University of Portland and worked for more than 10 years in Analytics and Supply Chain Performance Management at Nike, Inc. developing several tools to enhance reporting and analytics.  His current research is in applying agent-based modeling to understanding and mitigating the challenge of the spread of false news stories and intergenerational obesity.



DATE : Jan 10, 2020

WHERE: Harder House Room 104 (1604 S.W. 10th Av.)

REMOTE PARTICIPATION: remote participation link

TITLE: Statistical Analysis of Social Network Change

PRESENTER: Teresa Schmidt


We explore two statistical methods that infer social network structures and statistically test those structures for change over time: regression-based differential network analysis (R-DNA) and information theory-based differential network analysis (I-DNA). RDNA is adapted from bioinformatics and I-DNA employs reconstructability analysis.  Both methods are used to analyze Medicaid claims data from one-year periods before and after the formation of the Health Share of Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (CCO). We hypothesized that Health Share’s CCO formation would be followed by several changes in the healthcare delivery network.

Application of R-DNA and I-DNA to claims data involves three steps: (a) the inference of billing provider networks, (b) measurement of a ‘distance’ between networks before and after Health Share’s CCO formation, and (c) statistical testing of this distance by resampling. Both methods afford what is akin to a network-level t-test for significant network difference between two time periods. 

Results did not conform to our hypotheses:  1) Network connectivity consolidated after Health Share’s formation, producing stronger connections within the network’s core and weaker ones throughout its periphery.  2) Changes in connectivity between primary and specialty care sectors reveal an increase in patients who received neither type of care, which may indicate increased obstacles to access.  3) Changes between primary and mental/ behavioral care sectors reveal a decrease in the number of patients receiving both types of care, which may suggest that referrals did not increase as expected.

We conclude that both I-DNA and R-DNA are useful for inferring social network structures, for descriptively exploring the types of change that occur in them over time, and for testing whether those changes are statistically significant.


Teresa is a healthcare research analyst at OCHIN, a nonprofit healthcare innovation center, where she does research on health policy and healthcare utilization patterns among the nation’s safety net. She recently defended her Systems Science PhD dissertation on the above topic. 





DATE: Friday, March 13 th , 2020, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104 (with presenter being remote)

REMOTE PARTICIPATION: remote participation link

PRESENTER: Christan Echt

PRESENTATION TITLE:  Do. Or Do Not.* An Introduction to Urnomics

Why do things do stuff ?
With at least as much high-falootin’ technical jargon as the previous sentence, this presentation will ruminate on preferences and agency. While there is considerable merit to the existing game-and-decision-theoretic examinations of strategies and outcomes, there are also considerable shortcomings. For one, it is usually the case that, by the time game or decision theory approaches are being applied, some sort of action by the agents involved is being presumed by the model. For another, while such approaches are capable of dynamic analysis, their structures tend towards neglecting the persistence of agents and environments before and after the modelled interaction. Using concepts from philosophy, political science, sociology, economics, operations, physics, and across the systems sciences, urnomics attempts to address these shortcomings. After a hurried explanation of the synthesis of the most relevant components from these disciplines, the presentation will (time
permitting) attempt to apply an urnomic analysis to some deliberately simplified scenarios.

Christan Echt reluctantly works in a grocery store. Once upon a time, however, he was a PhD student in Systems Science at Harder House, where he also had the occasion to teach "Game Theory" and "Networks and Society" for the program. Insofar as he has a research agenda, it includes mathematical/systems approaches to induce cooperation and engender outcomes to which relevant agents would accede uncoerced. As a guideline, he himself most prefers to spend time with his potbellied pig, Beef.


Fall 2019 Seminar Announcements




DATE: Friday, December 6, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104


PRESENTER: Rajesh Venkatachalapathy


Computational Social Science Society of Americas (CSSA) conferences as a venue for publication and outreach


I had the opportunity to present my work at CSS18 and CSS19 and was/am pleasantly surprised by its casual and stimulating ambience. The themes of this conference are highly aligned with interests of graduate students at our program. CSSA also hosts a sister conference Complexity and Policy Studies (CAPS) conference every year. Both these conferences might be ideal venues for our students to publish, and find collaborators and funding sources.

In this talk, I present an overview of the CSS19 talks, categorize the conference presentations, highlight interesting talks, and align some of its recurring themes with our program's research areas. Based on my experience at the conference and my discussions with other collaborators, I argue that reframing systems science education around the buzzword computational social science more explicitly might help elicit more interest from students and the rest of the community. More importantly, the presence of this buzzword might help future graduating students find academic and industry jobs currently inaccessible because of obscurity surrounding the meaning of systems science. 


Rajesh is a [graduating PhD] student of systems science with interests at the interface of mathematics, cognitive science, and sociology.



DATE: Friday, November 22, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104


PRESENTER: Dave Lawrence

PRESENTATION TITLE: "Computational integration for augmenting human cognition"

SUMMARY: How can we improve the relationship between people and technology?  Is society forever indentured to surveillance capitalists, consigned to behaving for the benefit of elite others?  We think not, and offer as one example a technology called “computational integration” (CI) that promises to counterbalance surveillance capitalism as an instance of behavior systematically shaping algorithms - versus Google, say, using statistical learning tools to shape us.  CI produces revenues not as bets on future behavior, but rather through monetizing the economic surplus that lies hidden between how people would work most productively as individuals, and how they are required to work given traditional institutional technologies, especially “IT”.  At OHSU’s Oregon National Primate Research Center (NPRC), we have reduced to practice software technology and related methods that have proven dramatically successful in enhancing institutional performance on multiple fronts including humanitarian, economic and scientific aspects.  In this talk we’ll describe in broad non-proprietary terms the conceptual framework and technology including some application examples.  We’ll then present some ideas on why CI works so well - beyond the simple executive perspective that attributes success as the bottom line - notions that instead leverage the relationship between people doing the work and technology.  Data from a preliminary survey of individuals using the CI platform in their daily work is presented, along with a more formal survey design that will target 100+ individuals with structured questions and interviews.

BIO: Dave is Manager of Research Informatics at OHSU’s National Primate Research Center, and a dissertation-phase malingerer in the System Science program at PSU.



DATE: Friday, November 15, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104


PRESENTER: Howard Silverman

PRESENTATION TITLE: "Recursive identity and purposeful change"

Numerous theorists have used the concept of “identity” to characterize persistence and change in the experience and analysis of social and/or ecological systems. These include: Allena Leonard and Niklas Luhmann (cybernetics), Geoffrey Vickers (soft/critical systems), Béla Bánáthy (systemic design), Graeme Cumming (resilience), and Harrison White (networks). Concurrently, "identity" is also used to colloquially and academically describe that which persists in oneself. In this talk, I present models of identity that link individual, organizational, social, and ecological systems, characterizing the individual as recursively and intersectionally embedded and entangled in systemic relationships. This approach has significant implications for how one might consider and/or engage with purposeful change. This talk draws upon papers published in Ecology and Society ( and presented at the American Society of Cybernetics 2019 conference in Vancouver, BC.

SPEAKER BIO: Howard Silverman teaches classes in systems and foresight in the Collaborative Design MFA / Design Systems MA program at Pacific Northwest College of Art. From 1999 to 2012 he was with Portland-based nonprofit Ecotrust. He writes at 



DATE: Friday, November 8, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104


PRESENTER: Neil Babson

PRESENTATION TITLE: "Computing complex tasks with dynamical cellular systems"

Summary: Computing with ultra-simple, small, dynamical systems, such as Cellular Automata (CA), Random Boolean Networks (RBNs), or Reservoir Computers (RC) is appealing because such systems are in general ultra-low power and easy to fabricate. In this talk I will first present an overview of such simple cellular systems. In the second part, I will present new results on reservoir computing with complex cellular automata. Several researchers have experimented with using the dynamical behavior of elementary cellular automaton rules as reservoirs. We have expanded this approach to cellular automaton with larger neighborhoods and/or more states, which are termed complex, as opposed to the elementary rules. Results show that some of these non-elementary cellular automaton rules outperform the best elementary rules at the standard benchmark 5-bit memory task, requiring half the reservoir size to produce comparable results. The research is relevant for building simple, small, and ultra-low power systems that perform complex computational tasks.

SPEAKER BIO: Neil Babson is a PhD student in Computer Science at Portland State University working Dr. Christof Teuscher. Neil previously received an M.S. in Computer Science from Portland State as well as B.S. degrees in Mathematics and Physics. His research interests include Reservoir Computing using hierarchical and self-organizing networks.



DATE: Friday, November 1, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104


PRESENTER: Paul Loikith

PRESENTATION TITLE: "Using Large-Scale Meteorological Patterns to Better Understand Local-Scale Weather and Climate Extremes"

SUMMARY: High-impact weather and climate events such as temperature extremes, heavy rainfall, and lightning are all associated with numerous impacts on society and the environment. Furthermore, anthropogenic climate change is broadly projected to alter the frequency and severity of some types of extremes. However, some uncertainty in projections at local to regional scales persists despite advancements in climate modeling capabilities. One particular challenge is making projections of rare, high-impact events that occur at local scales or are influenced by local topography, as most state-of-the-art climate models are limited in their ability to resolve such scales. However, many of these local scale extremes are driven, at least in part, by large scale atmospheric circulation patterns. Therefore, one approach towards addressing this uncertainty is to gain a better understanding of the large-scale meteorological patterns associated with local phenomena, assess the ability of climate models to realistically simulate them, and assess whether models project systematic changes in these key patterns under further global warming. This talk will provide an overview of approaches, including machine learning methods, being used in the Portland State Climate Science Lab to better understand and characterize the large-scale meteorological patterns associated with several types of extremes in observations and climate models. 

Bio:  Dr. Paul Loikith is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Portland State and director of the Portland State Climate Science Lab. Dr. Loikith has a B.S. in Meteorology from Rutgers University as well as an M.S. and PhD in Atmospheric Science from Rutgers. Prior to joining the PSU faculty in 2015, he was a Caltech postdoc working at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory on regional climate model evaluation. Dr. Loikith's research interests span the weather and climate timescales with a particular focus on linking large-scale meteorological features to local scale high-impact phenomena as a way to better understand the processes behind these events as well as how they may change in the future due to ongoing climate change.



DATE: Friday, October 25, 2019, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

LOCATION: Harder House, Room 104


PRESENTER: Peter Roolf

PRESENTATION TITLE: Clinical Systemics: Towards an Integrated Framework and
Methodology for Alleviating Pathologies in Complex Systems

SUMMARY: Clinical systemics is a framework and methodology induced from Western
medicine for the purpose of identifying and treating pathologies in complex living systems.
Motivated by climate change and other significant trends in the 21st century, clinical systemics
is envisioned as a means of science-based, multidisciplinary collaboration and practice not only
in social-ecological systems, but in other natural and artificial living systems as well. This
presentation will outline the philosophical underpinnings of such a framework and methodology,
provide a contextual overview of the systems and complexity science project, and will describe
the features of complex living systems, health, pathology, and healing. Building on these ideas,
a vision for a clinical systemic framework and methodology will be articulated by drawing on
examples from the history of Western medicine. And lastly, benefits and challenges of such a
framework and methodology will be identified, followed by a suggested sequence of
development and implementation.

BIO: Peter is a Systems Science PhD student at Portland State University where he recently
completed a master’s degree following his study of general systems theory, complex adaptive
systems, and computer modeling & simulation. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Emergency
Medicine from the University of Pittsburgh, gained valuable field experience working as a
paramedic in the United States and Kuwait, and began to consider the interaction of social,
politico-economic, and healthcare systems while serving as the lead consultant for an
emergency medical service (EMS) development project in India. Leveraging his ability to work in
crisis situations and resource constrained systems Peter decided to focus his problem solving
abilities on these larger scale, systemic issues. In 2019 Peter won the Sir Geoffrey Vickers
Memorial Award from the International Society for the Systems Sciences for preliminary
development of his “clinical systemics” framework. The vision behind this research direction is to
use systems philosophy to adapt the framework and methodology of modern medicine for the
purpose of remedying pathologies in complex living systems, and Peter co-founded the
Cascadia Systems Institute as a vehicle for utilizing these concepts in a public policy context.
Peter’s ultimate goal is to assist local and regional communities, governments, and
organizations in becoming more resilient, self-sufficient, and healthy in a changing world.




October 18, 2019

TITLE: Motivating the quickest possible economic transition to low fossil fuel use: theory and application

SUMMARY: This research addresses the quickest means of minimizing fossil fuel use and, thus, the existential threat of climate change due to the impact of greenhouse gas accumulation. The apparently simple relationship between fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas accumulation and climate change hides a host of important questions that beg discussion. For example, is climate change a symptom or the ultimate problem? How did we arrive at the current state of affairs? What has to change for the problem not reemerge quickly in another guise? So, before addressing the theoretical and applied means of quickly decreasing fossil fuel use, I address the underlying problem and the way the technological evolution is motivated. My solution acts through the motivations driving technological change. The fix requires legislative teeth and border controls, so must be applied at a country level and must spread through a process of infection. Time permitting, the extension of the solution to greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide will be covered.

SPEAKER BIO: Steve Staloff received his PhD from the University of Oregon in Economics. He taught at the University of Maine and Portland State University, and did theoretical and statistical research at Resources for the Future and Pacific Northwest Laboratories in resource, solar and conservation issues. An insight during research aimed elsewhere led him to study the evolution of decision-making. He concluded that our lineage became the technological species on Earth, adapting to new ecological niches and changing conditions by evolving methods and tools more than bodies. Means of motivation developed, keeping the efforts of experts aligned with the needs and wants of their communities. Modern technologies have widespread and long-lasting impacts on the biosphere, but the means of motivating specialists and informing them of the needs of the community have not adjusted yet. Staloff’s current research, an application using insights from his larger study, points at a way forward.






October 11, 2019

A computational model for recovery from brain injury" by Wayne Wakeland

A computational simulation model calculates recovery trajectories following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Prior publications include a multi-scale framework for studying concussion and a systems-level causal loop diagram (CLD) and discussion of feedback processes. The scope of the computational model goes beyond concussion to include all severities of TBI. A set of first order ordinary differential equations and their associated parameters determines recovery trajectories. While highly speculative, the model serves to demonstrate the potential utility of computational models in this context. Much more research will be needed to create a properly supported research model that could be used for clinical trial design or precision medicine. The model contains 15 state variables, 73 auxiliary variables, and 50 parameters describing TBI pathology in an aggregate fashion at the cellular, network, cognitive and social levels. There are 1200 feedback loops, which gives rise to a variety of behavior modes, many of which are highly nonlinear. Exogenous parameters include patient and injury characteristics, treatments, and time constants for recovery processes. Model testing has focused on reviewing the model structure with subject matter experts and determining sensitivity of model results to injury severity and patient characteristics, especially the time constants associated with healing/recovery processes. The model produces outcome trajectories that represent quick or slow recovery with no deficits, partial recovery, or remaining indefinitely in a pathological state.

Wayne Wakeland is Professor and Systems Science Program Chair at Portland State University. He earned a B.S. and a Master of Engineering at Harvey Mudd College (1973); and a Ph.D. in Systems Science at Portland State U. (1977). He teaches computer simulation methods, and recent research has focused on recovery from concussion, health policy related to drug diversion and abuse, and environmental/ecological sustainability. Emerging collaborative research includes the dynamics of toxic stress in children, and computational models to study complications during human pregnancy.




October 4, 2019

Title: Intergenerational and environmental drivers of obesity: an Agent Based Model approach
 Janne Boone-Heinonen, PhD, MPH; Dale Frakes, Thomas Tandy

Obesity prevalence remains high and exhibits pronounced social patterning in the U.S., despite widespread intervention efforts. Complex individual, environmental, and intergenerational influences on obesity are difficult to study using traditional methods. Agent Based Models (ABM) are increasingly utilized to study complex determinants of population health by simulating experimental conditions that would be infeasible to conduct on human populations.

We present the motivating complexity and design of our recently developed multigenerational ABM, which simulates development of obesity over the life course and across generations within multiple sub-populations. The ABM incorporates interdependence of multiple obesity drivers that occur throughout the life course. It simulates autonomous, interacting individuals (agents) representative of the US population in age, gender, Body Mass Index (BMI), reproduction rate, and mortality rate. Agents are experimentally assigned to live in a high or low socioeconomic status (SES) area. Agents grow as a function of age, gender, local environment, and maternal BMI, in a dynamic simulation over time. Differentials in offspring BMI trajectory as a function of maternal BMI, assignment to residential areas as a function of individual SES, obesogenicity of local areas as a function of neighborhood, and other key factors are experimentally modified. Obesity prevalence and within SES subgroups, over multiple generations, are calculated under pre-specified simulated experimental conditions to study the relative and combined influences of possible prevention strategies.

The goals of this modeling effort are first, to quantify the theoretical influence of maternal obesity-induced intrauterine effects on (a) obesity prevalence and (b) SES disparities in obesity prevalence over multiple generations; and second, to quantify and compare the theoretical contributions of intergenerational transmission of (a) maternal obesity-induced biological susceptibility, (b) environmental factors, and (c) socioeconomic status on obesity prevalence and disparities over multiple generations.

Janne Boone-Heinonen, PhD, MPH
Dr. Boone-Heinonen is an Associate Professor in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. As an obesity epidemiologist, her research interests focus on how social, environmental, and behavioral factors in early life influence development of obesity and related health conditions throughout the life cycle. She uses interdisciplinary quantitative methods with large population-based cohorts to address methodological challenges in obesity and life course epidemiology. This seminar presents an application of systems science methods to investigate the influence of prenatal conditions on obesity over multiple generations.

Dale Frakes
Dale Frakes is a Ph.D. candidate in the Systems Science Program at Portland State University studying under Wayne Wakeland.  He has completed a graduate certificate in Computer Modeling & Simulation and has since worked as a graduate teaching assistant and adjunct instructor for Modeling & Simulation courses at PSU.  He received an MBA with a concentration in Global Business from the University of Portland and worked for more than 10 years in Analytics and Supply Chain Performance Management at Nike, Inc. developing several tools to enhance reporting and analytics.  His current research is in applying agent-based modeling to understanding and mitigating the challenge of the spread of false news stories and intergenerational obesity.


Winter 2019 Seminar Announcements

March 15, 2019
"Fractal dimension as objective function in a genetic algorithm for application in architectural design"
presented by John Driscoll

One of the goals of The Green New Deal Resolution reads, “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.”

How can this realistically be done given the sheer number of buildings in the United States? This presents a ‘wicked’ problem that calls out for a systems approach. This is also, in essence, a design problem. As data scientists we are used to using models to analyze data but there is another aspect to these models that can be used not to analyze data but to create data. Typically, this is verboten in the field of data science but in this talk we actively pursue this potential of modeling. Some buzzwords which describe the perceived polemic are: Qualitative <-> quantitative / exploration <-> exploitation / generative <-> discriminative / change making <-> sense-making / acquiring / purging. Specifically, we investigate algorithmic design using fractal dimension as an objective function for a genetic algorithm applied to a real-world architectural problem. The project is for a ~70,000 sq. ft. mixed-use affordable residential and street-level retail project in downtown Ithaca, NY. The thesis uses an IRB format to apply scientific rigor to the juried critique. A panel of licensed architects are participating asynchronously with feedback which will be presented along with the models. This talk will be a walk-through of pin-up #2 prior to its presentation to jurors.

Speaker Bio
John Driscoll ( is a senior designer in architecture and historic preservation. John has a BA in Architecture and a B.Arch from UNC Charlotte as well as an MS in Systems Science, and is currently a PhD candidate in Systems Science at PSU. John has attended programs at the San Francisco Institute of Architecture at Taliesin West and CSSS at the Santa Fe Institute. Publications include, “City Population dynamics and fractal transport Networks,” Proceedings of the Santa Fe Institute, 2013, and “Fractal cartography of Portland Oregon,” Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and the Life Sciences, 2014. John’s design work has been exhibited at The Heritage of Frank Lloyd Wright American Organic Architecture, Romanian Conference of Architecture and Design in 2010. After over 10 years in the field of architecture, John chose to augment his design background with analytic experience in data science and systems thinking. His goal is to apply theory and methods from systems science and complexity science to research and to apply algorithmic design in architecture. Cellular automata, fractal geometry, agent-based modeling and genetic algorithms are some of the ideas explored in his work.


March 8, 2019
"Managing healthcare data assets as a complex adaptive system"
presented by Katie Clift

A major project is underway to develop a shared platform for data and analytics in a highly federated healthcare delivery organization. In the status quo data environment, analysts have integrated information from various domains — medical records, claims, membership — to produce a multitude of reports and analysis. Duplicative, mis-aligned, and siloed datasets were created as an unintended consequence.  

One objective of the project is to produce outcomes (reports, analysis) that are more standardized and efficient than the status quo without sacrificing adaptability. Standards and practices are being intentionally developed as a mechanism for this emerging system to achieve more cohesion. In this presentation, I apply systems theories to develop an approach that recognizes the complex adaptive tendencies of this evolving landscape for data and analytics.

Speaker Bio
Katie Clift is nearing the end of a scenic journey to a Masters degree in Systems Science. She has been working in industry — software and healthcare — for two decades. Katie spends her free time with her dear ones.


March 1, 2019
"Systems Thinking as a Design Process"
presented by Elizabeth Lockwood

During my master’s degree I analyzed sustainable practices in the built environment. What came from that work was a deep level of understanding that the current practices and rating systems appeared to be technical approaches to a larger system at play. I realized I have a gift to see hidden connections and find links between systems. Currently I use systems mapping as part of the design process to unearth the hidden elements in a system. I believe it is important to understand where designers, clients and stakeholders can insert themselves into a system. Part of this understanding is having empathy for the interacting parts in a system that are unattainable within the boundaries of the project. I passionately weave this into my practice because I wholeheartedly believe that if we are going to change the way we enhance the built environment we need to use the lenses of system thinking.

Speaker Bio
Elizabeth Lockwood is a Commercial Interior Designer and Educator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Interior Architecture with a minor in Architecture and Art History from the University of Oregon. She has a Master of Whole Systems Design from Antioch University. She is currently practicing commercial interior design at an Environmental Graphics and Landscape Architectural firm. At the firm she works on projects that are pursuing the Well and LEED Building standards. She is currently researching and applying systems thinking as a design tool to the building process.


February 22, 2019
"IoT and Digitization Will Reconnect System Engineering and Science"
presented by John Blyler

The fully connected world is quickly becoming a reality. Architects and developers of this new world must understand both the hardware and software basics of IoT and IIoT systems as well as the proven way to deal with the complexities of the integration of sensors, processors, wireless connectivity, edge to cloud networks, data partitioning and processing, AI, machine language, digital threads and twins, and much more. Such complexity can only be handled with a systems-of-systems (SoS) engineering approach.

But while systems engineering may hold many of the solutions to IoT challenges, systems engineering must evolve from its traditional role. Some have even suggested that the data requirements and digitization of the IoT and corresponding digital threads are putting the engineering back into systems engineering via model-based designs. This will also help reconnect system engineering to system science.

This presentation will show how the IoT hardware and software technologies are changing the traditional systems engineering approach. Further, professionals that are so prepared with both the basics of IoT and systems engineering will stand a better chance of competing in the IoT space.

Speaker Bio
John Blyler is a technology professional with expertise in multi-discipline Systems Engineering, technical program life-cycle management (PLM), content development and customer-facing projects. He is an experienced physicist, engineer, manager, journalist, text-book author and professor who continues to speak at major conferences and before the camera. John has many years of experience leading interdisciplinary (mechanical-electronic, hardware-software) engineering teams in both the commercial and Mil/Aero, semiconductor and electronics industries. Additionally, he has served as an editor-in-chief for technical trade journals and the IEEE professional engineering society publications. He was the founding advisor and affiliate professor for Portland State University’s online graduate program in systems engineering. Finally, John has co-authored several books on systems engineering, RF-Wireless design, and automotive hardware-software integration for Wiley, Elsevier, IEEE and SAE. He holds a BS in Engineering Physics from Oregon State Univ. and an MS in EE from California State Univ., Northridge.


February 15, 2019
"Performativity of Models"
presented by Rajesh Venkatachalapathy

Inspired by Latour's work in social studies of science and technology, Callon, MacKenzie and others developed a performativity critique of economics. Building on this, Healy (2015) recently discussed the performativity of network models. While useful, I move away from French continental philosophy to avoid unavoidable comparisons with Foucauldian conceptions of performativity. Instead, I use ideas from vanilla historical sociology of science and technology and cognitive science to understand performativity. 

I first discuss Healy's critique of network models. Keeping with the worst traditions in systems science, I greedily apply this concept to all models in science and engineering by first critiquing  my own dissertation and then present several other examples, ending with a performativity critique of performativity.

Speaker Bio
Rajesh is about to complete a long overdue dissertation in system science. His doctoral work is at the interface of cognitive science, sociology and animal behavior. In Spring 2019, he will teach SYSC 440/540 Introduction to Network Science.


February 8, 2019
"Diachronics of Redemption: A Systems-Theoretic Exploration of Rosenzweig's Star"
presented by Martin Zwick

This presentation offers an interpretation of the conceptual structures of Franz Rosenzweig’s book, The Star of Redemption. These structures, which join three fundamental relations – Creation, Revelation, and Redemption – with three fundamental elements – God, World, and Human – are examined from a systems-theoretic perspective. Moses, Pollock, and others have noted the systematic character of the Star. While “systematic” doesn’t necessarily mean systems-theoretic, the philosophical theology of the Star and its core hexad of elements and relations exemplify ideas salient in the systems theory literature. The hexadic star itself fits the classic definition of “system,” and the Yes and No of Rosenzweig’s elements and their reversals illustrate the bridging, in this definition, of element and relation with the third category of attribute. Rosenzweig’s thought resonates with the opposing ontological and epistemological notions of “system,” the constitutiveness of function as well as structure, and the diachronics of system formation, all of which are fundamental to systems thought.

Speaker Bio
Martin Zwick was awarded his Ph.D. in Biophysics at MIT in 1968, and joined the Biophysics Department faculty of the University of Chicago in 1969. Since 1976 he has been teaching and doing research in the Systems Science Program at Portland State University; during the years 1984-1989 he was head of the program. His main research areas are information theoretic modeling, theoretical biology, and systems theory and philosophy. Scientifically, his focus is on applying systems methods to the natural and social sciences, most recently to biomedical data analysis. Philosophically, his focus is on how systems ideas relate to old and new currents in philosophy, how they might facilitate dialog between science and religion, and how they help us understand societal problems.


February 1, 2019
"What if our beliefs about a system are not wholly accurate? What if?"
presented by Gary Langford

For most people, a system is a construct with vexing complexities, many many parts, and perhaps wrapped with a goal or intention. Add to that simple construct a set of terminologies that are commonly applied when speaking of “systems” and we just might have veered away from discoveries of imminent importance. Ask yourself, “You said it was a system, but how did that statement help you solve your problem? How far off would we have to be in our perception of systemsness for us to make mistakes of consequence? One Hundred Billion are lost annually in software projects that failed – Why?”
Of some great mysteries we look to the frontiers of research in astrophysics and attempt to explain the fabric of space; the utility of process models used to achieve our engineering goals; the fundamentals of risk and economic forecasting; and even the future of artificial intelligent systems. Are systems involved in these quests; and if so how?
My research focuses on modeling the internal structures and actions of systems. I have discovered that systems are omnipresent, radically distinctive and without equal, and misunderstood.

Speaker Bio
Gary Langford is a serial entrepreneur founding five companies, taking one public on Nasdaq; was executive vice president of a merchant bank; a NASA Ames research fellow with 2 space missions to Mars; a systems engineer working for multiple aerospace companies; and for 19 years, teaching systems engineering at Portland State University, Naval Postgraduate School, and Stanford University. He has an A.B. in Astronomy (UC Berkeley), M.S. in Physics (Cal State University, Hayward), and Ph.D. in Electronics and Engineering (University of South Australia).


January 18, 2019
"The Complexities of Open Data"
presented by Hector Dominguez

Hector Dominguez is the current Open Data Coordinator at the City of Portland, and there are several lessons learned and strategies developed in the several months of work in this position. Hector will share some challenges on creating trusted and reliable data and information services, as well as the opportunities to work with Urban Data to resolve city challenges and to support achieving the City's goals in the coming years.

In this talk, Hector will share how modeling and defining the right metrics are not the only factors to implementing a citywide program, but rather, how ethics, communications and strategy play fundamental roles.


Speaker Bio
Hector comes from a mixed background of entrepreneurship, research and non-profit organizations, with expertise on Internet of things, advanced analytics, robotics and automation and Artificial Intelligence. Hector has developed sensor networks for agriculture, food production, forest monitoring and the oil industry. Hector has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on manufacturing solar concentrators and sustainable manufacturing.


January 11, 2019
"Mobile Geometric Graphs as Null Models for Homophily"
presented by Jasper Alt

In many contexts we may expect the structure of networks to be derived from some kind of abstract distance between actors. We refer to this phenomenon as homophily: like nodes connect to like. For example, people with similar beliefs may be more likely to form social relations. 
We formalize this notion by positioning the nodes in a latent space representing the possible values of the homophilous attributes. Realistically, we should expect latent attributes like beliefs to change over time in some nontrivial way, and the structures of temporal networks to evolve accordingly. We introduce a model of latent space dynamics where node positions evolve according to Brownian motion. While not a realistic model for social behavior, we expect this will be a useful null model for exploring the range of possible latent space dynamics.

Speaker Bio
Jasper Alt is a master's candidate in computer science at Portland State University. He is interested in networks, natural computation, and environmental prediction.



Fall 2018 Seminar Schedule

9/28/2018 — School year kick-off party, with refreshments. (No speaker; attendance not required.)
10/5/2018 — Terry Bristol, "Systems Philosophy and Engineering Thermodynamics" [announcement] [recording] [speaker video] [slides]
10/12/2018 — Dale Frakes, "Modeling Public Susceptibility to Fake News" [announcement] [recording]
10/19/2018 — John Driscoll, "A New Paradigm of Design Science That Applies Rigor and Analysis to the Creation of Form" [announcement] [recording]
10/26/2018 — Peter Roolf, "High Energy Metaphysics: A Firsthand Account of Chaos, Transformation, and Innovation at ISSS2018" [announcement] [no recording]
11/2/2018 — Max Grad, "What is Learning?" [announcement] [recording (first few minutes missed)]
11/9/2018 — Martin Zwick, "Reconstructability and Dynamics of Elementary Cellular Automata" [announcement] [recording]
11/16/2018 — John Vodonick, "The Key to Organizational Sustainability: Nurturing a Culture of Change" [announcement] [recording]
11/23/2018 — Thanksgiving Break, no seminar.
11/30/2018 — Miles Schneider, "The Biocybernetics of Sleep: borrowing socio-industrial and agricultural design tools to examine the strange phenomenon of lucid dreaming" [announcement] [slides] [no recording]


Fall 2018 Seminar Announcements

November 30, 2018
"The Biocybernetics of Sleep: borrowing socio-industrial and agricultural design tools to examine the strange phenomenon of lucid dreaming"
presented by Miles Schneider

"The Eight Principles of Biocybernetic Design" are a set of principles first described by Frederic Vester (and further developed by his student, Gabriele Harrer-Puchner) as a method of preserving and strengthening a relationship with nature in the course of designing social and industrial systems. These principles borrow inspiration from processes observed in nature, with the goal of putting these successful natural problem-solving strategies to work in artificial complex systems. Unsurprisingly, then, biocybernetic design principles overlap with similar principles used in the design of permaculture systems. In this talk, I will use both of these sets of design principles to examine the phenomenon of lucid dreaming—the ability to maintain awareness and control while in a dreaming state. While a minority of people find that lucid dreaming comes naturally, frequently, and easily, most do not. However, it is a skill that can be learned with practice. Applying the biocybernetic and permaculture design perspectives to the practice of lucid dreaming reveals leverage points which can be used to improve the learning process, as well as unexpected benefits in tangential aspects of life.

Speaker Bio
Miles Schneider holds a BA in Neuroscience from the College of Wooster, with a minor in Music. As a soon-to-be graduate of the Systems Science Master's Degree program at Portland State University, his interests include refugee migration and resettlement, human cognition, and evolutionary approaches to art and creative design using genetic algorithms. Additionally, Miles holds a Permaculture Design Certificate from the Ka'Way Monti School of Sustainability, earned while working at an off-the-grid eco-hostel in the Peruvian Andes. He is a runner and a violinist, and has a passion for building and riding bicycles.


November 16, 2018
"The Key to Organizational Sustainability: Nurturing a Culture of Change"
presented by John Vodonick

Unless they are constructed for purely theoretical purposes, all human organizations exist in their own particular environments. Those environments are subject to change. Unless the organization accommodates the changing environment. The chances of it continuing to serve the needs of its stakeholders will diminish. At a certain point as the needs of the stakeholders of the organization will cease to be served and the organization will no longer be sustainable. When the organization ceases to be sustainable it will cease to exits in its present form. The problem of organizational sustainability has been intensively studied. The issue of organizational resistance to change has been historically approached from the perspective of militating organizational resistance to a particular change initiative. In this paper, the social and historical roots of resistance to change are explored, and a new strategy to accommodate organizational change is developed. That new strategy is to adopt and nurture a culture of change. The first step in creating an organizational culture of change is to make change an everyday expectation by adjusting the organizational structure to encourage the assumption of power, authority and creativity throughout the organization. The basic four structures of organization are surveyed, and the type of structure that has been found to be most accepting and supporting of change is the type that has come to be known as an adhocracy.

Speaker Bio
John Vodonick did his undergraduate work in business systems at California State University, Fullerton, the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. He graduated from the Pepperdine School of Law cum laude, and did his master's work in ethics and social theory at the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley and his Ph.D. at Saybrook University in Organizational Systems. John teaches in the areas of organizational design and change management. He consults in the areas of Organizational Structure, Change Management and Organizational research. John is affiliated with Two Ravens Consulting Group.


November 9, 2018
"Reconstructability and Dynamics of Elementary Cellular Automata"
presented by Martin Zwick

Reconstructability analysis (RA) is a probabilistic graphical modeling (machine learning) method which determines whether a multivariate relation is decomposable with or without loss into lower ordinality relations. In this study RA is applied to predict the presence or absence of chaos in the dynamics of elementary cellular automata (ECA). Set-theoretic analysis (SRA) is first used to characterize the ECA mappings. Non-decomposable mappings tend to produce chaos, and the decomposition without loss that is possible for each mapping is more effective than λ (Walker & Ashby, Langton) as a predictor of chaos. SRA yields not only the simplest lossless structure but also a vector of losses for all structures indexed by parameter t. The vector subsumes λ, Wuensche’s Z, and versions of Walker & Ashby’s fluency, memory, and hesitancy within a single framework, and is a strong but still imperfect predictor of the dynamics. Information-theoretic analysis (IRA) captures the same information as SRA, and provides a clear interpretation of the Walker-Ashby measures. Of the parameters tested, fluency is the best scalar predictor of chaos.

Speaker Bio
Martin Zwick has been teaching and doing research in the Systems Science Program since 1976. His main research areas are described at the three web pages below. Scientifically, his focus is 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, including the philosophies of science and of religion, and how they help us understand societal problems.


November 2, 2018
"What is Learning?"
presented by Max Grad

In our quest to create models of cognition, it is necessary that we re-examine the very question of 'what does it mean to learn'? This talk will include a heavy participation component, as the participants work together to contemplate what can be learned, and what is the manifestation of that learning? Using Control Theory as a jumping off point, we'll consider what it means for a system to come into contact with new stimuli, to undergo a learning process, and to come out of that process having integrated that stimuli into its range of 'expected' possible stimuli, with a practiced response. The systems we'll be contemplating will be the individual, the group, and the formal organization.

A scenario to contemplate in advance: 

A flyer is posted on PSU campus advertising for incoming freshmen who have never ridden a bicycle. They are invited to come to the park blocks on a Saturday where a variety of bicycles are provided. They are welcome to get tutoring, have a friend to help, or go their own way. 

  • When would you say that a student could 'ride a bike'? 
  • What does the student know before beginning? 
  • What is a waypoint between ignorance and mastery? 

Speaker Bio
Max Grad has a Master's in Teaching from Seattle University and a Master's in Science from PSU's Systems Science department. His main focus is on shared displays of discrete semantic content in associational networks, an attempt to improve the learning process by helping students make sense of what they know. 


October 26, 2018
"High Energy Metaphysics: A Firsthand Account of Chaos, Transformation, and Innovation at the International Society for the Systems Sciences 2018 Conference"
presented by Peter Roolf

The primary focus of modern science is on the observation of phenomena, collection of data, and rigorous logical and mathematical analysis in order to formulate or refine rules of nature. However, underlying and supporting these processes are deep personal motivations, mental frameworks and biases, decisions informed by intuition, and the social exchange of ideas with other scientists, all of which contribute to how we understand the world. These subjective, metaphysical features and experiences are both an essential part of directing scientific inquiry and a key to learning how to view the world through a systems scientific lens.

This presentation will highlight some of these themes via a first-person narrative of the presenter’s experiences at the 2018 International Society for the Systems Sciences' annual conference. Additionally, the presenter will convey his broad interpretation of the state of the art in the systems science field, as well as provide room for reflection and discussion from other Portland State University faculty and students who attended the conference.

Speaker Bio
Peter is a systems science PhD student at Portland State University, where he currently studies general systems theory, complexity, and computer modeling and simulation. He earned his Bachelor's degree in Emergency Medicine from the University of Pittsburgh. His current interests include: resilience, transformation, and management of social-ecological systems, systems dynamics, reconstructability analysis, networks, ethics and value systems, community infrastructure development, and economics.


October 19, 2018
"A New Paradigm of Design Science That Applies Rigor and Analysis to the Creation of Form"
presented by John Driscoll

Solutions to the global challenges we face undoubtedly require a wholistic approach that looks at the problem from multiple perspectives. One important and powerful perspective is that of the designer. Fuller offers an analogy to a ship in terms of the trim tab on the rudder (Fuller, 2008). The trim tab has seemingly little to do with the overall working of the ship yet it has in fact a powerful influence on the overall heading even though it is a small and relatively innocuous component. Design and architectural design specifically represent such a leverage point. 

Architecture has traditionally been the space of designers trained in architecture but not necessarily in computer science, yet the tools of the architect are becoming increasingly computer-based. Conversely, computer scientists are often not trained in design and yet their work is having a large effect on how buildings are designed and built, and consequently on our built and natural environments. 

Many tools are now available for the architect which not only have redefined how architects design and represent buildings but also suggest a new paradigm of design science that applies rigor and analysis to the creation of form. The field of design science anticipated by Fuller and others is still in its infancy and much remains to be done to bridge the gap between science and design. Machine learning, for instance, remains largely a black box to the architect/designer. The proposed research will develop and test a design process integrating fractal geometry as an objective function within a genetic algorithm as a means to produce higher quality designs.

Speaker Bio
I am primarily interested in holistic architecture and the rationalization of city planning. From the perspective of an architect and scientist, I am researching the processes by which urban spatio-temporal structures behave as multi-scale complex adaptive systems within ecosystems. My goal is to apply theory and methods from systems science to create collaborative human / machine design processes. 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 theoretical components underlying the framework I have developed and applied in a number of projects to date.


October 12, 2018
"Modeling Public Susceptibility to Fake News"
presented by Dale Frakes

This session will present on-going research in using Agent Based Modeling to study applying Inoculation Theory to mitigating the spread of false-news. Inoculation Theory ( comes from the psychology domain and aims to explain how attitudes and beliefs change, and how they can be maintained against attempts to change them. In this modeling effort we (a team headed by researchers from Decision Research: are attempting to combine existing models of how opinions can change through interactions between agents with ideas from inoculation theory. Our goal is to develop a model that can demonstrate the effectiveness of using inoculation theory to fight against “false news” and to help guide research on human subjects that may eventually result in useful policies.

In this talk I will focus primarily on the agent-based modeling effort, including our efforts to replicate previous simulation studies, the various problems we faced and how we chose to solve them, and finally looking at the challenges we face in completing the project.

Speaker Bio
Dale Frakes is a Ph.D. student in the Systems Science program with a focus on computer modeling & simulation. He has a diverse professional history including 10 years in supply chain and analytics at Nike, 4 years in IT at University of Portland's School of Engineering, and 4 years in the US Army as a paratrooper and Arabic linguist. He has a BA in International Studies/Middle East from Portland State, and an MBA with a concentration in Global Business from the University of Portland. He currently teaches courses in computer modeling & simulation for the Systems Science department as well as working as a research consultant.


October 5, 2018
"Systems Philosophy and Engineering Thermodynamics"
presented by Terry Bristol

Despite impressive contributions, the philosophical foundations of systems theory remain in flux. In the practical context, the proper understanding of the relation of the systemsframework to classical mechanics and quantum theory remains unresolved.
I argue our understanding of systems theory is advanced by recognizing the crucial link to engineering and thermodynamics. Engineering thermodynamics is more general than the historically dominant ‘rational mechanical’ thermodynamics of Clausius, Boltzmann, the Entropy Cult (viz. Jaynes’s MEP) and the recent information theory.
That systems theory’s philosophical foundations are in a philosophy of engineering and an engineering worldview should be no surprise, given the modern origins in cybernetics and operations research. The natural extension of systems to ecology, from Odum to Ulanowicz, support the thesis. More recently, Paul Romer’s New Growth Economics moved us from the old scientific economics to an inherently developmental engineering systems framework.
The Systems Engineering Thermodynamics Paradigm (SETP), is more general than all possible scientific, mechanical frameworks, formally subsuming and superseding. To subsume means to be able to explain all the successes of the prior scientific paradigms as idealizing special cases. To supersede is more subtle. It means that SETP understands the limited scientific paradigms in a new way, within its more comprehensive conceptual framework.

Speaker Bio
President, Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy. Affiliated with Portland State University. Education: Berkeley and London. History and Philosophy of Science (Feyerabend, Kuhn, Lakatos, Popper). Morphed in History and Philosophy of (Systems) Engineering. Taught 8 years at Linfield College, intermittently over 20 years at PSU, PCC, Marylhurst. Organizes Linus Pauling Memorial Lecture Series,


Summer 2018 — Special Seminar

  • 7/20/18 — Joseph Lizer, “What information dynamics can tell us about ... brains”

The space-time dynamics of interactions in neural systems are often described using terminology of information processing, or computation, in particular with reference to information being stored, transferred and modified in these systems. In this talk, we describe an information-theoretic framework — information dynamics — that we have used to quantify each of these operations on information, and their dynamics in space and time. Not only does this framework quantitatively align with natural qualitative descriptions of neural information processing, it provides multiple complementary perspectives on how, where and why a system is exhibiting complexity. We will review the application of this framework in computational neuroscience in particular, describing what it can and indeed has revealed in this domain. First, we discuss examples of characterising behavioural regimes and responses in terms of information processing, including under different neural conditions and around critical states. Next, we show how the space-time dynamics of information storage, transfer and modification directly reveal how distributed computation is implemented in a system, highlighting information processing hot-spots and emergent computational structures, and providing evidence for conjectures on neural information processing such as predictive coding theory. Finally, via applications to several models of dynamical networks and human brain images, we demonstrate how information dynamics relates the structure of complex networks to their function, and how it can invert such analysis to infer structure from dynamics.

Speaker Bio
Dr. Joseph Lizier is an Australian Research Council DECRA fellow and Senior Lecturer in Complex Systems, in the Faculty of Engineering and IT at The University of Sydney (since 2015) where he teaches into the University's new Master of Complex Systems degree. His research focusses on studying the dynamics of information processing in biological and bio-inspired complex systems and networks, in particular for neural systems. He is a founding developer of the open source JIDT toolbox for measuring the dynamics of complex systems using information theory, and the related IDTxl toolbox for inferring effective network structure in neural data. He is an editorial board member at Entropy, Complex Systems, and Frontiers in Robotics and AI, and has recently chaired conferences including IEEE ALife and the CNS workshop on Methods of Information Theory in Computational Neuroscience. Before joining The University of Sydney, Dr. Lizier was a Research Scientist and Postdoctoral Fellow at CSIRO ICT Centre (Sydney, 2012-14), and a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (Leipzig, 2010-12). He has also worked as a Research Engineer in the telecommunications industry for 10 years, including at Seeker Wireless (2006-2010) and Telstra Research Laboratories (2001-2006). He obtained a PhD in Computer Science (2010), and Bachelor degrees in Electrical Engineering (2001) and Science (1999), from The University of Sydney.

Note: We weren't able to record Dr. Lizier's talk due to technical difficulties, but a recording of the same talk given at MIT the next week is available.


Spring 2018 — Special Seminar Series on Computational and Data Science

This series of special seminars will meet at 12:30 in CH 418, with one exception. See website link above for complete details.


Winter 2018 Schedule


TITLE: Climate Science
DATE: Friday, March 16th, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00PM
PRESENTOR: Dr. Aslam Khalil

SUMMARY: Dr. Khalil will present a simplified climate science model and discuss some of the key challenges associated with climate change.

BIO: Dr. Khalil is a professor of physics at PSU.  He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the Center for Particle Theory at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a theoretician with diverse research interests and the 2004 winner of the Outstanding Scientist Award from the Oregon Academy of Sciences. His areas of expertise include man-made global warming, natural climate variability, effects of climate change on human life, reducing climate change: science and policy, ozone depletion and its consequences, how human activities change atmospheric composition, global cycles of greenhouse gases, non-CO2 greenhouse gases, connections between climate change and human health, and interaction of population increases and global warming.


TITLE: "Dimension" in Synergetics
DATE: Friday, March 9, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
PRESENTER: Kirby Urner

SUMMARY:  At the turn of the last century, at the beginning of the 1900s, there was much ferment over the concept of "dimension" and what we might mean by a "fourth dimension".  Edwin Abbott's Flatland had proved influential. Many people got in on this conversation, in the arts as well as the sciences. Buckminster Fuller ​(1895 – 1983), in taking "4D" for a kind of logo or brand, was clearly interested in joining this conversation, but exactly what was his contribution and how might it be remembered and/or integrated into 21st Century scholarship, going forward?
BIO: Kirby Urner was born in Chicago into a city planning family, his dad's first client being Greater Portland in the 1960s. The family then moved to Italy when the government of Libya became his dad's next client. After high school in the Philippines, Kirby went to Princeton, focusing on philosophy and computer programming (Richard Rorty a thesis adviser).  After some years on the east coast, he moved back to Portland in the 1980s and raised a family, working as a software developer.  Nowadays he teaches Python to professionals and middle schoolers.  He first connected with Fuller's work around 1980 and has approached it as a philosophy worthy of further investigation ever since.​  He is the primary author behind the Synergetics page on Wikipedia.​


TITLE: One Government’s Use of LCA – An Introduction
DATE: Friday, March 2, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
PRESENTER: Peter Canepa

SUMMARY:  The scale and extent of humanity’s global demand, in terms of total material output from the technosphere, has been estimated at 30 trillion metric tons and rising.  Extracting, manufacturing, transporting, selling, using, and disposing of these materials and products has led to vast environmental impacts.  This trend and its impacts are no different in Oregon.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is tasked with protecting the quality of Oregon’s environment.  And so in December 2012, to address the rising demand for and impacts of materials, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission adopted Materials Management in Oregon: 2050 Vision and Framework for Action.  The 2050 Vision imagines a future where Oregonians “produce and use materials responsibly: conserving resources, protecting the environment, [and] living well.”  It was informed and inspired by DEQ’s prior experience with life cycle assessment (LCA), and life cycle thinking is at the core of this Vision which “seeks to reduce environmental impacts by managing materials throughout all stages of their life cycle.” 

To achieve the 2050 Vision, an array of new projects that employ LCA are now underway.  This presentation will begin with an introduction to the concepts and methodologies of LCA and highlight a current project where Oregon DEQ is using LCA to reduce impacts of an essential building material, Concrete. 

BIO:  Peter Canepa joined the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in January 2017, providing Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) expertise to Oregon’s Materials Management program.  Peter’s primary role is to support projects, primarily through the application of LCA, that advance Oregon towards achieving its 2050 vision for sustainable materials management.  Prior to this role, Peter spent 8.5 years with Thinkstep.  Peter holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management and a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies.

TITLE: Cybernetics of Contentious Politics
DATE: Friday, February 23, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
PRESENTER: Rajesh Venkatachalapathy

SUMMARY: This talk is primarily a book review of Zeynep Tufekci's Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. I discuss its core thesis and highlight salient arguments with several illustrative examples. I argue how we can enrich our understanding of both this book and contentious politics in general by using concepts from systems theories.

BIO: Rajesh is a graduate student at the Systems Science Graduate Program. His dissertation work develops models of behavior for use as models in sociology, psychology and animal behavior.

TITLE: How are Data Science and Systems Science Connected?
DATE: Friday, February 16, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
PRESENTER: Ted Laderas
SUMMARY: Data Science is a relatively new interdisciplinary field, taking concepts from statistics and machine learning to produce predictive models. However, Systems Science concepts (such as feature-feature interactions and dynamics) have been largely underutilized in Data Science. In this talk, I'd like to start a discussion of specific ways that Systems Science can inform Data Science. I will start with examples of network analysis in my research that have led to better predictive models, and end with a discussion about the interpretability of black box predictors such as neural networks. I believe that Systems Science approaches can enhance Data Science by providing a deeper understanding of interactions between features and interpretability. 
BIO: I am an Assistant Professor in the Division of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in the Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology at OHSU (BCB/DMICE). My research focus is on the Systems Biology of Complex Diseases, especially within cancer. I use integrative modeling approaches (such as network analysis and graphical models) across OMICs types to achieve this. I am also an active participant in the Portland Data Science community, especially the R programming community. More information at


TITLE: Smart Cities Initiatives in the Portland Region 
SPEAKER: Dr. Kristin Tufte
WHEN: Friday, February 9, 2016, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

SUMMARY: This talk will describe work in Smart Cities in the Portland region. We’ll begin with the framework and motivation for the Smart Cities work and the question What is a Smart City? We’ll discuss Portland’s approach to Smart Cities, provide some historical context and then give an overview of ongoing Smart Cities projects including work on AV policy, the Portland Urban Data Lake, new sensors and earthquake resilience. The goal of the talk is to give the audience an overview of the work being done in Portland to bring a human face to data and technology and to inspire question and discussion.

BIO: Dr. Tufte is actively involved in Portland’s Smart Cities work and was the data lead on the City of Portland’s Smart Cities proposal. Dr. Tufte has collaborated closely with transportation agencies in the Portland-Vancouver area for the past ten years and directs PORTAL — the regional transportation data archive. Dr. Tufte is a member of the Transportation Research Board’s Urban Data Committee, co-chairing its Urban Big Data subcommittee and Portland Global Cities Team Challenge Action Cluster. Dr. Tufte has a PhD in Database Management from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Dr. Tufte’s passion is using data and technology to change people’s lives, especially those in traditionally underserved communities.


TITLE: Natural Selection, Mental Action, and the Sciences
PRESENTER: Steve Staloff
DATE: Friday, Feb 2, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

SUMMARY: Although overlooked by contemporary evolutionary biology, mental action -- recognized through learning and decision-making -- is present in every living organism. In this presentation I explain how, starting from shortly after natural selection begins, bodies and mental action co-evolve. Mental action provides direction and coordination – the decision-making services bodies would otherwise lack. Evolution develops over the ages forming a timeline through a series of discoveries and new behaviors, each of which redefines competitiveness. Using the timeline, I am able to show (1) where gaps are found in scientific and philosophical understandings by overlooking the evolutionary role of mental action, and (2) where some areas of study, akthough not usually associated with evolution, have evolutionary roots.

SPEAKER BIO: Steve Staloff received his PhD from the University of Oregon in Economics. He taught at the University of Maine and Portland State University, and did theoretical and statistical research at Resources for the Future and Pacific Northwest Laboratories in resource, solar and conservation issues. A research question aimed elsewhere led to his current line of research when his model exposed a possible connection between a modern act of human thinking and a simple molecular invention of a sort likely to occur early in an evolutionary sequence. The effect on Staloff upon recognizing the potential connection was like a gateway drug grabbing a soul. Never before had he given thought to the source of mental action. Staloff became a generalist as he examined the nooks and crannies where this research led, in the process discovering where and how this research relates to existing studies.


TITLE: Portland Institute for Computational Science (PICS): an introduction
DATE: Friday, Jan 26, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 PM

SUMMARY: We will introduce PICS and give a brief outline of the research directions and interests of its founding members - J. Gopalakrishnan, B. Jedynak, J. Ovall, and P. Vassilevski all from the Fariborz Maseeh Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

Short bios of the speakers: 

Bruno M. Jedynak received his doctorate in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from the Université Paris Sud in January 1995. He spent a year as post-doc in the Department of Statistics at the University of Chicago. He was then appointed as assistant professor at the Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille. From 2003 to 2015, he was a faculty member of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics at the Johns Hopkins University. In 2015, he moved to the Fariborz Maseeh Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Portland State University in Oregon where he is currently appointed as Maseeh Professor in Mathematical Sciences.

Email: or
Web page: 

Jay Gopalakrishnan received his Ph.D. in computational mathematics from Texas A&M University, in 1999. He was industrial postdoc associate at IMA as joint appointment at University of Minnesota and Medtronic Inc., Cardiac Surgery Division, Minneapolis. During the period 2001-2012 he was at University of Florida as assistant (2001-2006), associate (2006-2010) and full professor (2010-2012). In 2012, he became the Maseeh Distinguished Chair & Professor at Portland State University. His research spans broad area of computational mathematics, with contributions to the theory of geometric multigrid and domain decomposition and their application to electromagnetics with over 70 publications. Currently, he is pursuing innovative strategies for space-time problems, including application of DPG (discontinuous Petrov-Galerkin) and least-squares finite element technologies. He is the co-founder of PICS and led a 5-year recruitment effort that hired several mid-career professors and built a recognized computational group from the ground up.

Web page:

Jeffrey S. Ovall received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of California, San Diego, in 2004.  After postdoctoral appointments at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences and the California Institute of Technology, he joined the mathematics faculty at the University of Kentucky in 2009.  In 2013, he moved to the Fariborz Maseeh Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Portland State University, where he is currently a Maseeh Professor and one of the founding members of the Portland Institute for Computational Science. His area of specialty is Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computation for Partial Differential Equations.

Web page:

Dr. Vassilevski is a computational mathematician at CASC/LLNL (Center for Applied Scientific Computing, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) as of March 1998.  Since 9-16-2014 he is also a professor of mathematics at Portland State University ( ). Since then, he holds joint positions with LLNL and PSU. Prior to 1998 he held various visiting positions, including at UCLA (1991-1993), Texas A &M (1996) and UCSD (winter term, 1998). He earned his PhD from the University of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria in 1984 and began his career at the Academy of Sciences, Sofia, Bulgaria where he was till 1997. He has a long-term research experience in numerical methods for partial differential equations (PDEs), both discretization and solvers, with most of his early accomplishments found in his 2008 monograph. More recently, he has been involved in research on multilevel methods for finite element upscaling, Monte Carlo and Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods, as well as on multilevel algorithms for discrete mathematics (graphs), all ranging from theory to scalable algorithms with contributions to some of the main software libraries (Hypre and MFEM) developed at CASC/LLNL.  At PSU, he is the founding co-director of the newly established Portland Institute for Computational Science (PICS, ). His research has been funded continuously by DOE ASCR, and after he joined Portland State, by the ARO and NSF. He has been mentoring postdocs and graduate students, and for many (about 20) years he has been actively involved with the LLNL Ph.D. internship program.

Web page:


DATE: Friday, Jan 19, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
PRESENTER: Alexis Dinno
TITLE: An Introduction to the Loop Analysis of Qualitatively Specified Complex Causal Systems

SUMMARY: Dr. Dinno will introduce and motivate Richard Levins' loop analysis, which is a body of methods for understanding the nature of system behavior in complex systems defined by causal feedback where every variable is directly or indirectly affected by every other variable. Originally devised by Richard Levins as a means of creating testable hypotheses about the behavior of dynamic systems in population biology, loop analysis has a very general application in sciences concerned with modeling causal feedback, and accommodates posing, answering and empirically validating a variety of questions regarding system responses to perturbations at one or more variables.

BIO: Alexis Dinno is trained as a social epidemiologist and teaches much of the core Master of Public Health curriculum at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. Dr. Dinno's research subjects are varied, ranging from urban air pollution exposure modeling, to time series analysis of the effects of state same sex marriage laws on state rates of opposite sex marriage, to passenger exposure to noise on public transit, to vulnerabilities analyses in tobacco control policy. Her work consistently tries to set the bar higher for analytic methodology in her domains of research. She also touches on applied statistical methods and develops statistical software for Stata and R.


DATE: Friday, Jan 12, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
PRESENTER: Holly Brewster
PRESENTATION TITLE: Teaching for Risk Tolerance:  Intellectual Virtue in Mathematics Education

An important aspect of navigating the world as an adult is the appropriate response to risk, including processing and evaluating information related to likelihood of occurrences and impact of consequences.  We might reasonably expect that children learn these capacities in school.  However, in the U.S. and many other Western Nations, the dominant paradigm in schooling is characterized by a skills model of learning  that is insufficient for educating students to handle these epistemic demands.  In particular, it undermines the development of open-mindedness, intellectual courage, and capacity for uncertainty.  I will focus on math education in particular as the discipline seemingly most committed to the skills paradigm, and seemingly most naturally suited to it as well.  
I will argue that the skills paradigm in mathematics education derives from an impoverished and incorrect
understanding of the nature of the discipline.  Drawing from Naturalist philosophies of mathematics, which are
precursors to today’s Systems-Oriented Social Epistemology, I will offer an alternative conception of the growth of mathematical knowledge and show that contrary to public conception, mathematics is uniquely well-suited for
exercising and developing the intellectual virtues we seek.  

BIO: Holly Brewster is a philosopher of education and a mathematics teacher by training, and has worked as a
classroom teacher, a professor of education, and a teacher educator.  She completed her M.Ed. at the University of Washington and her Ph.D. at Columbia University.  Her research is interdisciplinary, drawing from philosophy of mathematics, critical race theory and whiteness studies, feminist theory, and virtue ethics.  She currently teaches in the Transitional Studies department at Clark College where she works with adult students from marginalized populations to prepare for vocational training and higher education.  In addition Holly is a MS student in Mathematics at PSU.