Melanie Mitchell

Computer scientist Melanie Mitchell, creator of SFI’s online education platform, was named co-chair of SFI’s Science Board at its 2019 spring meeting.

The principal role of the Science Board is to advise the President and the Board of Trustees on matters of scientific strategy for the institute. Mitchell joins co-chair Daniel Schrag (Harvard University), who has co-chaired the board since 2016 with outgoing co-chair Mercedes Pascual (University of Chicago), an External Professor.

“We are delighted to have Melanie play this important advisory role for SFI — especially given her multifaceted involvement since the early days of the Institute,” says VP for Science Jennifer Dunne. “With her long view of SFI science activities and education programs, and her deep expertise in artificial intelligence, she is a valuable addition to the Science Board.”

Since 1992, Mitchell has served SFI as a faculty member, advisor, and interim Vice President for Education. In addition to being a Science Board co-chair, she is also currently an SFI External Professor, and is based at Portland State University, where she researches artificial intelligence, machine learning and evolutionary computation on, cognitive science, and complex systems.

Mitchell earned her Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Michigan in 1990, then in 1992, she “jumped at the chance” to work at SFI on the new Adaptive Computation Program. She became the director of the program, which over the course of six years made significant contributions to the rapidly developing field.

She also originated the Santa Fe Institute’s Complexity Explorer platform, which offers online courses and other educational resources in the field of complex systems. Her wildly popular “Introduction to Complexity” has introduced more than 38,000 students from around the world to complexity science, and is Complexity Explorer’s flagship course.

Mitchell is the author of over 80 scholarly papers in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and complex systems, and is the author or editor of six books including Complexity: A Guided Tour (Oxford, 2009), which won the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Science Book Award. Her newest book is Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans, which will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in October 2019.

During her tenure as Science Board co-chair, Mitchell will also return to SFI for an extended residency, from Jan. to Dec. in 2020.