Austin Marcus

Photo of Me

I am currently a graduate student at Binghamton University pursuing an MS in Systems Science. I am working under Dr. Hiroki Sayama and Dr. Luis Rocha.

Research Interests

I am interested in the structure and organization of dynamical systems, especially those of natural and biological systems. Some examples of this “structure” would be the spatial pattern of a leaf, the shape and movement of the storms on Jupiter or galaxies, the pattern of firing neurons in a brain, or the “organized” ways in which chemicals in a cell work together to achieve the its functions. Some questions I have about this notion of “structure” are:

  1. How can we precisely characterize what this structure is? Can we quantify it?
  2. Can structure be related to physical quantities like entropy and energy?
  3. Can we develop theories of structure that enable an understanding of a system across scales? E.g., derive macroscopic concepts from microscopic, “basic” rules?

I have found that a good way to characterize structure is as a mean between complete order and complete randomness, as this is where complexity is usually said to lie. Another way to think of this is that when a system’s parts are completely correlated or completely uncorrelated, we do not see any complex behavior, and perhaps nothing we would want to call structure: the system contains very little information. But when the parts are correlated across scales, to varying degrees, we get complex behavior and structure.

Some fields that I find relevant to these questions are: thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, information theory, philosophy of biology, mereology, differential equations, network science/graph theory, group theory, numerical analysis.

Current Work

I am a part of Dr. Hiroki Sayama’s research lab and Dr. Luis Rocha’s group, the Complex Adaptive Systems and Computational Intelligence (CASCI) lab.

I am currently working on a paper which develops a complexity measure to quantify structure in a simple physical system. I am also investigating ways to compress (coarse-grain) boolean functions with applications to gene regulatory networks.

Background

I majored in Computer Science at Pennsylvania State University, and there I also minored in both Physics and Philosophy. In the physics department, I worked with Dr. Dezhe Jin on the voice identification problem in parakeets using ML methods. In the philosophy department, I investigated the concept of “soul” and definitions of life with Dr. Mark Sentesy. I also worked with Dr. Michael Hallquist and the DEPENd lab to develop software for pre-processing human-subject psychology study data, was a grader for an introductory computational theory course, and had a summer internship with a Lockheed Martin research group. Eventually, I took an online course from the Santa Fe Institute on complexity science, and found a way to combine my varied interests.

For more information, please take a look at my CV, or send me an email at amarcus6@binghamton.edu.