Iain Couzin, speaker of the Cluster of Excellence Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour (CASCB), director of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (MPI-AB), and professor in the Department of Biology of the University of Konstanz receives the Rothschild Distinguished Fellowship 2023 from the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge. The fellowship is an endowment to support visits from pre-eminent mathematicians.
“I dropped mathematics when I was 16 years old”, Iain Couzin says. After his PhD in biology, Iain Couzin tried to find a fellowship that would allow him to work in a mathematics department. “But the only opportunities were for mathematicians to move into biology”, he remembers. At Oxford he was mentored by mathematician Philip Maini and simultaneously with mathematician Simon Levin at Princeton. “They were the smartest and kindest advisors one could possibly imagine”, Couzin says.
“Mathematics provides a potential to see and understand the world in the most profound ways currently known to humanity”
“So, I am an untrained mathematician who works with my colleagues via mathematical intuition and with no formal training. However, working with mathematicians has, and continues, to be one of the most important aspects of my science.”
His personal experience biases his plan for the time as a Rothschild Distinguished Fellow: “At one of the most important mathematical institutes in the world, the Isaac Newton Institute, I can reach out to those that, like me, were not able to achieve a formal mathematical training and to promote the fact that mathematics provides a potential to see and understand the world in the most profound ways currently known to humanity.”