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Dr Richard A. Watson BA, MSc, PhD

Senior Lecturer

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Dr Richard A. Watson is part of the Institute for Life Sciences at the University of Southampton.

Richard A. Watson is a senior lecturer in the natural systems research group at the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science. He received his BA in AI from the University of Sussex in 1990 and then worked in industry for about five years. Returning to academia, he chose Sussex again for an MSc in knowledge-based systems, where he was introduced to evolutionary modeling. His PhD in computer science at Brandeis University (2002) resulted in 22 publications and a dissertation addressing the algorithmic concepts underlying the major transitions in evolution. A postdoctoral position at Harvard University's Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology provided training to complement his computer science background. He now has over 50 journal and conference publications on topics spanning artificial life, robotics, evolutionary computation, population genetics, neural networks and computational biology. At Southampton, he's building his research programme and leading preparation of a new MSc in complexity science. He is the author of Compositional Evolution: The Impact of Sex, Symbiosis, and Modularity on the Gradualist Framework of Evolution (MIT Press, 2006).

Research interests

Among the many interfaces between computer science and the life sciences (e.g. bioinformatics, biologically inspired computation, computational biology, biocomputation), my particular research emphasis is not merely to take inspiration from biology for new computational methods, nor merely to apply existing computational methods to biological systems, but rather to use algorithmics and complexity theory to understand the underlying algorithmic principles of biological systems (algorithmic biology).
My recent research focusses on exchange between evolutionary computation and evolutionary biology. In particular, I've worked on genetic algorithms, coevolutionary algorithms, the benefit of sexual recombination, the major evolutionary transitions, symbiosis and symbiogenesis, fitness landscapes and artificial life. More recently, Im working on the homology between a) associative learning and distributed optimisation (in neural networks) and b) adaptive networks in other domains (social networks and collective intelligence, genetic networks and the evolution of evolvability, ecological networks and the evolution of ultra-stability). These works feed into a developing theory of multi-scale or self-referential evolution.

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Dr Richard A. Watson
University of Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 32/4035

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