Profile for Naomi Ehrich Leonard
Naomi Ehrich Leonard is the Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and
associated faculty member of the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton
University. She is Director of Princeton's Council on Science and Technology and affiliated faculty
member of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and Program on Quantitative and Computational Biology.
She received her BSE in Mechanical Engineering from Princeton University and her PhD in Electrical
Engineering from the University of Maryland. Leonard is a MacArthur Fellow and a member of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a Fellow of the ASME, IEEE, IFAC, and SIAM.
Leonard's main area of research and teaching is in the field of control and dynamical systems,
where she has made contributions both to theory and to application. The field involves designing and
analyzing feedback and the behavior of complex, dynamical systems. In recent years she has focused
on multi-agent systems in engineering (design of robotic teams) and in nature (analysis of animal
and human groups) and developing mathematical approaches for leveraging insights across contexts.
Her work examines the role of distributed feedback and interconnection in collective motion and
collective decision-making and makes rigorous the connections between network and leadership
structure and decision-making speed, accuracy, and robustness.
She led a large, collaborative, multidisciplinary Adaptive Sampling and Prediction project on the
development and demonstration, in Monterey Bay, CA in 2006, of an automated and adaptive ocean
observing system consisting of a coordinated network of underwater robotic vehicles that move about
on their own and carry sensors to collect scientific data about the ocean. She has collaborated
with biologists to study the mechanisms that explain the collective dynamics of animal groups,
including killifish, honeybees, caribou, and starlings, and to explain human decision-making under
uncertainty. In 2010 she co-created Flock Logic, an art-making project that explored what happens
when dancers carry out the mathematical rules for dynamic response used to model flocking birds.