Colin Twomey, PhD

MindCORE Fellow, 2018-present
Colin uses information theory to understand the social dynamics that cause natural languages to form efficient descriptions of sensory information.

Colin was appointed a MindCORE Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in July 2018. Prior to Penn, Colin studied computer science as a Goldwater Scholar at Colgate University, receiving his BA in 2008, and going on to study natural algorithms for optimization as a Fulbright Fellow at the Université libre de Bruxelles. In 2016, as a NSF Graduate Research Fellow, he earned his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University for his investigation of the sensory rules underlying collective motion in animal groups. At Penn, Colin investigates the dynamics of collective behavior in both human and animal systems. Working from information-theoretic first principles, he builds mathematical models and develops the necessary computational tools to test theory with experiment. He has used this combination of theory, computation, and experiment to study the dynamics of ‘fright waves’ in schooling fish, both in the lab and from coral reef communities in the field. Now, as a MindCORE fellow, he uses this approach to understand how individual perception and social dynamics drive natural languages to form efficient descriptions of sensory information. Colin’s work has been mentioned in the Economist and featured in Princeton’s Art of Science annual public exhibition.