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Leonard to give first talk in President's Lecture Series

Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009, 4:30 p.m. 101 Friend Center

The graceful movements of bird flocks and fish schools inspire the research of engineer and mathematician Naomi Leonard, who will deliver the first talk in this year's President's Lecture Series at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, in 101 Friend Center.

Leonard, a 1985 Princeton graduate, is the Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Her talk, "Flocks and Fleets: Collective Motion in Nature and Robotics," will describe efforts by her and others first to understand how these natural groups move in patterns that seem highly choreographed and then to apply these principles in designing robotic devices that work with unprecedented efficiency.

Fish and birds have evolved optimized ways to forage and feed by working in groups that act like a large-area sensor network. Leonard and colleagues are exploring how robots inspired by biology could work cooperatively to explore and monitor uncertain, dynamic environments in land, sea or space.

Leonard will describe her work in designing and testing an adaptive ocean observation system using a fleet of underwater robotic vehicles and an investigation of motion and decision-making in fish schools.

In 2004, Leonard was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" for her work at the intersection of biology and robotics. She is an associated faculty member of the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics and is a fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

Her talk is the first of three scheduled for this year's President's Lecture Series. Douglas Massey, the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, will deliver the second talk, titled "America's War on Immigrants: Causes, Consequences and Solutions," on Thursday, Dec. 10. That will be followed by a lecture by Michael Oppenheimer, the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs, on Thursday, March 4. Both lectures also are at 4:30 p.m. in 101 Friend.

The lecture series was started by President Tilghman in 2001 to bring together faculty members from different disciplines to learn about the work others are doing in a variety of fields. The talks will be webcast; viewing information will be available online.

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