Multiscale Organizational Principles in Active Matter and Living Systems

Project: Research project

Project Details


Both the physical and the biological worlds appear to produce emergent structures and dynamics at multiple scales. In self-driven active matter, the energy injected at smaller scales by individual biotic or abiotic components can self-organize into collective work at larger scales. In evolving living systems, functioning components combine into modules that in turn organize into more complex structures at higher levels. Both processes can repeat many times and span multiple spatiotemporal scales. This project aims to develop a theoretical framework to address the overarching question: what is the role of multiscale structures and dynamics in the drive towards increasing levels of self-organized complexity observed in active matter and living systems? Our activities will follow two tracks. In the first one, we will use agent-based simulations, analytical theory, and data to study the mechanisms that lead to mode focusing and inverse energy and information cascades towards larger self-organized scales in active systems. In the second, we will use evolutionary models of Boolean networks, adaptive networks, and artificial life simulations to explore the origins and consequences of multiscale modular order in biological networks. The objectives of the project will be to: 1) Explain the self-organization of active matter numerically and analytically in terms of collective modes in multiple models, 2) Describe the inverse energy and information cascades in various active matter systems, 3) Analyze the mechanisms that lead to the emergence of multiscale modularity in biological systems described by Boolean and adaptive networks, and 4) Explore how multiscale modular living systems adapt, compete, and evolve using artificial life simulations. By advancing a new perspective on the relevance of multiscale processes in self-organization, this project aims to produce groundbreaking publications and conference presentations that impact our view of emergence across multiple disciplines. It will develop theoretical approaches that influence the analysis of active systems, ranging from actin-myosin networks to animal swarms, and provide a framework to interpret the role of multiscale modularity in cells, organisms, and ecologies. This will help interpret future data and experiments in terms of multiscale and modular self-organization and build conceptual foundations to manage and control multiscale and modular strictures and dynamics in physical and biological complex systems.
Effective start/end date11/1/2110/31/24


  • John Templeton Foundation (ID# 62213)


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