EPSRC has awarded four million pounds to set up the Bristol Centre for Complexity Science, in which the Department of Computer Science is a major partner. Complexity Science deals with large networks of many smaller elements that interact to produce behaviour that cannot be predicted by looking at just one or two elements.
Examples of the kind of problems Complexity Science might try to solve are:
Biology: how to identify what causes diseases such as Alzheimer’s by looking at the activity of individual brain cells.
Engineering: how the mobile phone network adapts to maintain its quality of service when too many people want to use it.
Chemistry: how to make ‘designer’ molecules that benefit mankind without unpredictable side-effects.
The aim of the Centre is to provide a highly interdisciplinary four-year programme for 15 extremely high calibre and motivated post-graduate students per year, leading up to a PhD. These students will be expected to make ground-breaking discoveries in the new science of Complexity. During the initial one-year training period, they will be exposed to leading-edge theoretical techniques in mathematics, statistics and computer science, as well as attending lectures in areas to which the theories can be applied.
The students will be given the best possible information before choosing their doctoral project. Uniquely, they will also be allowed one false start should they find they don’t like their first choice. Each project will be jointly supervised by experts from both the theoretical and application areas. This will foster links between a theoretical hub and many application areas so that students emerge ‘speaking two languages’ – the theory of complexity science and the challenges it addresses.
The first students will begin their training in October 2007. The Centre has funding for four years and hopes to attract up to 60 students in that time, as well as provide funding for several new members of staff.
See bccs.bris.ac.uk for more information.