- Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science
- Core Member, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering
Biological systems, from multicellular organisms to social insects ("superorganisms"), get tremendous mileage from the cooperation of vast numbers of cheap, unreliable, and limited individuals. Engineers are increasingly facing a similar challenge: how to effectively engineer systems that are composed of many agents: distributed networks, programmable materials, groups of robots. Nature can provide insights into principles that allow robust collective behavior to emerge; the challenge is formalizing and generalizing these principles to program new kinds of systems.
Nagpal's group is interested in engineering and understanding self-organizing multi-agent systems, where large numbers of simple agents cooperate to produce complex and robust global behavior. This work lies at the intersection of computer science (AI/robotics) and biology. Her group studies bio-inspired algorithms, programming paradigms, and hardware designs for swarm/modular robotic systems and smart materials, drawing inspiration mainly from social insects and multicellular biology. The group also investigates models of self-organization in biology, specifically how cells cooperate during the development of multicellular organisms.
The overall goal is to provide a framework for the design and analysis of self-organizing systems by combining traditional computer science techniques (for managing complexity) with biological models (for robustness at the local level).
Positions & Employment
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
- September 2009-Present: Associate Professor of Computer Science
Wyss Institute for Biologically-inspired Engineering
- 2008-Present: Core Faculty Member
Harvard Medical School
- 2004-Present: Affiliated Faculty Member, Department of Systems Biology
- 2004-2009: Assistant Professor of Computer Science
- 2003-2004: Research Fellow
- 2001-2003: Postdoctoral Lecturer, Department of Systems Biology
- 1994-1995: Member of Technical Staff