In this article in The Scientist, John Holland, External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute, explains the various breakthroughs attributed to the application of biology to complex engineering problems. Today, scientists and engineers from fields as diverse as agriculture, synthetic biology, and mechanical engineering are using genetic algorithms to find efficient solutions to their problems. In his research, Holland applies these genetic algorithms to complex adaptive systems. After being introduced to one of the first computers and studying the use of real math in biology at the University of Michigan, Holland published a sketch of the basic ideas behind genetic algorithms in 1962. Soon after his engineer students began applying the algorithm to otherwise unsolvable problems. Today, genetic algorithms underlie a wide range of engineering algorithms that search for the optimal form or better designs. After joining the Santa Fe Institute, Holland began working with other scientists at the Institute to apply the genetic algorithm to everything from engineering to economics to possibly helping cure cancer.