What do we study?
My research uses mathematical and computational methods to study evolution and social behavior. This puts me somewhere at the interface of evolutionary biology, cognitive science and network science. My main focus though is the action of evolution (or evolution-like processes) on complex systems, and especially on complex social systems. I'm currently interested in three types of interrelated problem:
(i) The impact of genetic architecture on the capcacity of populations to evolve and adapt to new environments.
(ii) The impact of cognitive complexity on the capcity of evolving groups to maintain prosocial norms such as cooperation.
(iii) The ability of smart "bots", that use complex decision-making strategies, to disrupt or stabilize social and evolutionary dynamics.
How are these problems connected?
Pretty much every species, from bacteria to humans, engages in social behavior. This means we have have to understand social dynamics to understand evolution and we have to understand evolutionary dynamics to understand social behavior. Many things impact evolutionary and social dynamics, including environment (what "game" people are playing when they interact), population structure (who interacts with who, and how often), genetic architecture (what kind of invaders can arise) and mutation rate (how often different invaders arise).
What are the practical applications?
A major aim of my research is to quantify and predict the stability of group norms against disruptive invaders. This has practical applications in a range of areas, from new approaches to treating cancer, to a better understanding of human behavior in social networks.