ONR-funded researchers among Popular Science magazine's 'Brilliant 10'

December 21, 2010

ARLINGTON, Va. - Dubbed the "Brilliant 10" by Popular Science, two researchers on the magazine's recently released 2010 list of top young scientists have received funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The two ONR-funded researchers are Dr. Chiara Daraio, a 2010 ONR Young Investigator Program (YIP) award winner, who researched and designed a nonlinear acoustic lens, which has the potential to break apart tumors; and Dr. Iain Couzin, who studies animal behavior and tracks the decision-making processes of groups. Daraio and Couzin were featured in Popular Science's November issue.

YIP invests in academic scientists and engineers who show exceptional promise for creative study and have obtained a doctorate or equivalent degree within the past five years.

Couzin's work was supported by both ONR's Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department and Sea Warfare and Weapons Department. A principal investigator with the Science of Autonomy Program and assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, Couzin uses complex mathematical models to understand and even predict how animals behave in groups.

Marc Steinberg, a program manager in ONR's Naval Air Warfare and Weapons department, said Couzin's effort is groundbreaking for the scientific community.

"This is very well-deserved as he has been a pioneer in applying sophisticated mathematical modeling techniques towards understanding collective animal behavior," Steinberg said. "The work he has been involved with for [ONR] has had some very interesting results in gaining understanding of how animals in schools/flocks make decisions. The idea is that social interactions in animal groups may provide for simple methods that can yield good decision-making at the collective level, despite uncertainty."

Couzin said he was honored to be recognized by Popular Science. "I was delighted to have been selected as one of the Brilliant 10," Couzin said. "What a wonderful way to encourage interest in collective behavior."

The Ivy Leaguer's research is being used by institutions and industry partners all over the world to explore the influence of organizational structures on distributed, autonomous system decision-making in a variety of environments. The military, in particular, is using these findings to design autonomous vehicles that can do more things in the most dynamic working environments.
Popular Science's annual Brilliant 10 list honors pioneering young researchers solving some of science's most grueling questions. The magazine has been a leading source of science and technology news since its inception in 1872.

Read more about the achievements of Couzin and Daraio at www.popsci.com/category/tags/brilliant-10.

Office of Naval Research

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