News and Media

March 29, 2017

Dr. Benjamin Allen Publishes Breakthrough Research on Evolutionary Dynamics in Nature

Mathematical modeling demonstrates that cooperation flourishes when there are strong pairwise ties between individuals

Emmanuel College Assistant Professor of Mathematics Benjamin Allen, Ph.D., is the lead author of a manuscript titled "Evolutionary dynamics on any population structure," which was recently published by Nature, a prestigious multidisciplinary scientific journal.  

Professor Allen and his collaborators have derived a condition for when cooperative behaviors will be able to spread across a network via natural selection. Using mathematical modeling, they have found that cooperation flourishes when there are strong pairwise ties between individuals. These "individuals" may refer to people interacting in networks, or other types of organisms in spatially structured habitats.

"We now have a method for determining which networks promote the evolution of cooperation," said Allen. "If all individuals are equally connected to all others, then selfish behaviors can take over.  But if each individual has a just small number of close pairwise ties, cooperation can easily spread from one individual to another. This is an intriguing mathematical argument for the importance of stable partnerships in cooperative societies."

Nature is an international journal with original, groundbreaking research spanning all of the scientific disciplines. Nature's impact factor, a measure of how many citations a journal generates in other works, is among the highest of any science journal.

Professor Allen's research was conducted through collaboration with top scholars in the field, including Dr. Shing-Tung Yau, the William Caspar Graustein professor of Mathematics at Harvard and winner of the Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize given in mathematics; and Dr. Martin Nowak, professor of Mathematics and Biology at Harvard University and director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics.  Also collaborating on this project were Dr. Gabor Lipper, assistant professor of Mathematics at Northeastern University; Dr. Yu Ting-Chen, assistant professor of Mathematics at the University of Tennessee; Dr. Babak Fotouhi, post-doctoral researcher for Harvard University's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics; and Naghmeh Momeni, a graduate student at McGill University.

"Professor Allen's latest research on evolutionary dynamics exemplifies Emmanuel's commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship," said Emmanuel's Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean, William C. Leonard, Ph.D. "Our faculty and students are constantly pushing the boundaries of inquiry through involvement in collaborative research projects across a wide range of industries and disciplines." 

The online version of the article can be found on Nature's web site.

A blog post detailing the story behind the article can be found here.

Dr. Benjamin Allen, Assistant Professor of Mathematics