Research is the life force of CMS. The faculty, postdoctorate fellows, and students live and breathe research, and their common passion for science and engineering creates an exceptionally stimulating environment where new ideas are dreamed up daily. They focus on the theory and technology of computation itself: it is truly the study of information, and of the structures that communicate, model, and process information. Whether these structures are expressed in hardware and called machines, in software and called programs, in abstract notation and called mathematics, or in nature or society, the fundamental concepts are similar.
Computing is a ubiquitous tool in all areas of study and research at Caltech, and as such, research in the CMS department reaches beyond the limits imposed by scientific specialization. In fact, the crucial issues facing our nation and the world are less and less likely to be problems that can be addressed without bringing together insights, techniques, and expertise from numerous research fields. We thus tend not to specialize along traditional lines that divide hardware and software, models and applications, or theory and experiment. Instead, we often bounce theory and practice off each other.
Members of the department are united by their commitment to mathematical rigor and abstraction in Computing + Mathematical Sciences research broadly construed. This common slant recognizes an ongoing and accelerating shift in perspective that views computation and information as intrinsic components of diverse fields, and not only the basis for an enabling technology. From this viewpoint, activities spanning CMS and physics, biology, economics, electrical engineering, and computational neural sciences are unified by a common mathematical language, and a shared set of tools, techniques, and formalisms. By organizing our activities around this commonality we strengthen the core fields within CMS and nurture existing interdisciplinary collaborations, while building a department well-suited to a dynamic field with rapidly-expanding boundaries.
To address the intractability of most optimization problems, the undecidability of whether a computer code will do what it is supposed to do, the difficulty of predicting emergence from many individuals behaviors, or inversely, to design individual behaviors to reach a specific global goal, there is no one single, magic approach. Instead, our research takes place within various environments: in focused labs, in larger research groups, or even in centers and initiatives. Great ideas happen not only in our labs, but also on boards available throughout the premises during chance encounters, or over drinks at the Red Door cafe, located on campus a few buildings down.
CMS researchers and students maintain high scientific visibility and strong impact through an uncompromising focus on rigorous, innovative research: their research lays the ground for foundational theoretic & algorithmic tools for engineers and scientists of nearly all fields. Their results are published in top journals and presented in international conferences & symposia, regularly winning distinctions and awards.