Colin R. Twomey

Dept. of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University


About Me

I am a Ph.D. student in Iain Couzin's lab at Princeton University, studying collective motion. I use computational tools and information theoretic techniques applied to empirical data I have collected in the lab.

Prior to Princeton, I did my undergraduate work in computer science at Colgate University as a Goldwater Scholar, and briefly worked on nonlinear optimization methods as a Fulbright Research Fellow at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium. I have also worked in industry as an intern at Sun Microsystems and at a small technology startup outside of Boston.


Colin Twomey
Dept. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
106A Guyot Hall
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-2016

				field of view


I study natural algorithms: the rules and patterns governing behavior. What sensory information do organisms use to make decisions? What is the mapping from information to behavior? These questions are particularly relevant in the study of collective motion, which has been the focus of my research to date.

  • The sensory basis of collective behavior: I would like to go beyond simple models of coordinated movement to a quantitative understanding of how it's generated. This is important for generalizing to different environments and for studying the evolution and development of social behavior in general.
  • Behavioral cascades: Startle responses in fish schools are critical to avoiding predation. A single individual startling can induce a wave of startle response across a group. What about a fish just prior to the startle makes it more or less likely to propagate that startle response to others? In other words, what determines its social influence on the rest of the group? Or vice-versa, what determines its susceptability to behavior change from others in the group? Knowing this allows us to uncover the complex network of information transmission in these groups, to be able to say how information should propagate through the school. I have been pursuing this in collaboration with fellow Ph.D. student Brin Rosenthal.