James Holehouse

Program Postdoctoral Fellow

Ever since James Holehouse read the book Chaos in his teenage years, his interest in complex systems was sparked. He is interested in understanding how complex aspects of the world arise by studying simpler toy models that are analytically tractable, and in giving emergent phenomena a grounding narrative that is difficult to achieve from simulations or data alone.

His research at the Santa Fe Institute will include work on complex adaptive systems across scales, including cells, companies and governments, and in understanding the regulatory mechanisms and costs that such systems develop in order to meet their goals. This research aims to answer questions such as: (1) What causes an increase in regulatory costs? (2) Are naturally emergent regulatory systems optimal, or are more efficient strategies possible? He aims to answer these questions within the vast framework provided by non-equilibrium statistical physics alongside Sidney Redner, Geoffrey West, Chris Kempes, Vicky Chuqiao Yang and Hyejin Youn (Northwestern University).

Previously, James has studied various topics in Complexity Science. He studied Theoretical Physics (MPhys) and Mathematical Biology (Ph.D) both at the University of Edinburgh. At the undergraduate level he studied whether climate change has increased the risk of anticyclonic weather in the UK. At masters level he investigated whether cross-situational learning (a proposed mechanism for how children learn the meaning of words) is a viable learning strategy given the memory constraints of children. For his Ph.D he has worked on stochastic models of gene expression and enzyme kinetics, with an emphasis on how gene expression is controlled by various transcription mechanisms. He has also begun studies on economic toy models, with an interest in understanding how non-equilibrium transient phenomena affects social choice.