Orit Peleg

External Professor

Peleg is an Assistant Professor at the Computer Science Department and the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder and an External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. She is leading an interdisciplinary lab aimed at understanding how biological communication signals are generated and interpreted, using insect swarms as a model system. While the channel may change — whether chemical, sound, or light — the living creatures of our world all encode high-dimensional biological features into low-dimensional communication patterns. I use insect swarms as a model system for identifying how organisms harness the dynamics of communication signals, perform spatiotemporal integration of these signals, and propagate those signals to neighboring organisms. Examples include fireflies who communicate over long distances using light signals, and bees who serve as signal amplifiers to propagate pheromone-based information about the queen’s location.

Her honorary recognitions include the Cottrell Scholar Award and the Complex Systems Society Junior Scientific Award, and a National Geographic Explorer distinction. Peleg draws from a multidisciplinary background; She holds a B.S. in physics and computer science and an M.S. in physics from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. She then moved to Switzerland to get her Ph.D. in materials science at ETH Zurich, and then to Boston for a Postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University in first chemistry, and then applied mathematics.


Primary Institution: University of Colorado Boulder

Role/Title: Assistant Professor

Topics of Interest: Agent-based Modeling - Behavior - Biology - Evolution - Intelligence - Linguistics - Mathematics/Computer Science - Physics

How SFI changes your mind: The big picture questions scientists in SFI work on resonate deeply with my own research interests. I too, am seeking the shared patterns and regularities across physical, biological, and social systems. Even more resonating is SFI’s scientific approach where it is okay to be passionate about many different problems, follow seemingly disparate interests and create research problems from their intersections.

When and how you first got involved with SFI: My main engagement took place during an invited visit to SFI in fall 2018, hosted by Omidyar Fellow Josh Garland. I gave a seminar talk entitled “Intrinsically Disordered Living Systems”, which served as a base for many interesting discussions with SFI scientists.

Favorite Book: Educated

Favorite Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind