There are a few times every year when faculty members are bombarded with requests to write letters of recommendation for students. Sadly, we do not do a good job telling undergraduate students what kinds of relationships they should be building with faculty to ensure that when the time comes (e.g., applying for graduate school or medical school), there will be two or three different faculty who feel comfortable writing a recommendation letter.

A good recommendation letter must do much more than just verifying a grade in a class. Students applying for graduate school will be asked to submit verified transcripts…


A guide to the three pressures that shape innovation in living and non-living systems.

I teach a course on Bio-Inspired AI and Optimization that is meant to be a graduate-level survey of nature-inspired algorithms that also provides a more serious background in the natural-science (primarily biological) fundamentals underlying the inspiration. The first half of the course covers nature-inspired optimization metaheuristics, with a heavy focus on evolutionary algorithms. An evolutionary algorithm is a scheme for automating the process of goal-directed discovery to allow computers to find innovative solutions to complex problems. …


Basic guide for using CDC data to understand how many people must die for a society to reach herd immunity.

David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Atlanta, GA (public domain image from Jim Gathany)

An epidemic is not a single number. Knowing exactly how bad an epidemic is requires knowing both how quickly it is going to spread and how bad its effects will be on those who are affected by it. To make matters worse, parameters that characterize each of these separate factors usually cannot simply be “multiplied together” to understand their composed effects. They have to be filtered through dynamical models that properly account for depletion and saturation effects in populations. …


An argument for how more access to voting (not less) is not only fair but makes for a more deliberative voting population.

(public domain image from Mohamed Hassan)

“Voting should take some effort. It means more that way.”

This was a statement I copied from a social media post of an old acquaintance, but I have heard the same sentiment from many others. They say that voting is important, perhaps the most important assertion of someones feelings that they can make, and so a certain amount of inconvenience is necessary to adequately motivate someone to deliberate on important options and make an informed choice. …

Ted Pavlic

Assistant Professor at Arizona State Univ. Director of the Science and Engineering of Autonomous Decision-making Systems (SEADS) Lab. Keeper of ants & robots.

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