FAU’s J.A. Scott Kelso, Ph.D., Awarded Prestigious Global Chair

J.A. Scott Kelso, Ph.D., Professor, Global Chair

J. A. Scott Kelso, Ph.D., the Glenwood and Martha Creech Eminent Scholar Chair in Science and founder of FAU’s Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences within the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

By gisele galoustian | 6/6/2024

˵һɫ’s , Ph.D., the Glenwood and Martha Creech Eminent Scholar Chair in Science and founder of FAU’s within the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, has been awarded a prestigious by the University of Bath, which is ranked No. 6 best university in the United Kingdom.

The aim of the Global Chair is to bring globally renowned scholars and world-leading expertise to the University of Bath to engage in high-profile research and network-building and to promote world-class international research collaborations and strategic global networks. As part of the program, Kelso will visit the University of Bath twice within the next two years to collaborate with colleagues at the Bath Institute for the Augmented Human (IAH) and its Institute for Policy Research (IPR).

According to the University of Bath, Kelso’s achievements exemplify the immense potential of interdisciplinary research, demonstrating how the fusion of diverse fields can catalyze novel insights and fundamentally transform the understanding of coordination dynamics and complex systems. Coordination dynamics and complex systems provide powerful tools for studying the coordination of behaviors in a wide range of contexts, from the dynamics of neural networks in the brain to the collective behavior of social groups.

“I am profoundly grateful for the honor bestowed upon me from the University of Bath and for the tremendous opportunities I will encounter as Global Chair to enhance research and establish important collaborations and interactions between our two institutions,” said Kelso. “Understanding complex systems and solving the problems that confront humanity on many levels involves ground-breaking research that requires new concepts, methods and tools.”

In his role as a Global Chair, Kelso will be instrumental in helping the Bath Institute as they embark on developing a multidisciplinary ecosystem for the IAH. As such, he will help to guide the understanding of the intricate interactions between biological and artificial systems, and of human cognition in general. In addition, he will contribute to the creation of ethical frameworks that guide the responsible development and deployment of human augmentation technologies.

“I founded the FAU Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences in 1985 because of my unwavering conviction to understand the behavior of complex living things from molecules to minds, including humans, and their relation to ever-changing environments,” said Kelso.

FAU’s Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences was the first of its kind in the United States and many of the center’s graduates and postdocs now hold top positions in academia as well as the private sector. Importantly, numerous institutions in the U.S. and worldwide have embraced the complex systems approach.

From 1985 to 2005, Kelso served as the founding director of the Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences where he also led the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) national training program in this new interdisciplinary field. Before coming to FAU, Kelso was senior research scientist at Yale University’s Haskins Laboratories and a professor of psychology and biobehavioral sciences at the University of Connecticut.

Using a combination of brain imaging, behavioral methods and computational modeling, Kelso’s research focuses on how the brain is coordinated on multiple levels, all the way from cells to circuits for cognition and social behavior. Since the late 1970s, his approach called Coordination Dynamics, has been grounded in the concepts, methods, and tools of self-organization in physical, chemical, and biological systems tailored to the activities of animate, living things (moving, feeling, thinking, remembering, etc.).

Kelso’s research spans multiple scales of observation and is relevant to a broad range of cognitive and behavioral functions, including motor control, motor development, speech production, learning, perception, social coordination and human-machine interaction. His approach looks for commonalities and differences in the way such complex systems are coordinated across scales with the goal of identifying common principles and mechanisms. This work has advanced our understanding of social function at both neural and behavioral levels. For example, Kelso and co-workers identified “neuromarkers” and their spatiotemporal choreography in the brain during simple forms of dyadic interaction that may be useful in the diagnosis and treatment of social dysfunction in neuropsychiatric disorders.

Most recently, in articles published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” and “Scientific American,” along with colleagues Aliza Sloan, Ph.D., and Nancy Jones, Ph.D., he has been exploring the roots of biological agency in human infants. This research is revealing how sentient agency may emerge through self-organizing coordinative processes that span organisms and environments.

Kelso’s research has been continuously funded for more than 40 years by both U.S. federal agencies such as the NIH, National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, private sources as well as international organizations such as the Human Frontier Science Program. His numerous honors and awards include the MERIT, Senior Scientist and Director’s Innovations Awards from the NIH, the Distinguished Alumni Research Achievement Award from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the Docteur Honoris Causa degree from the Republic of France and the University of Toulouse. In 2007, Kelso was named Pierre de Fermat Laureate and in 2011 he was the recipient of the Bernstein Prize for his fundamental work on how the brain controls movement. In 2016, he was elected an honorary member of The Royal Irish Academy.