Stephen Pratt is being honored for his research on the emergence of complex social behavior in leaderless and decentralized groups. Pratt’s work focuses on studying social insect colonies, such as ants and honeybees, and deriving principles from that research that facilitate bio-inspired engineering solutions for complex military and national defense problems.
For the past several years, Pratt has been a principal investigator for a research project funded by the Office of Naval Research: the Heterogeneous Unmanned Networked Teams (HUNT) group, a multidisciplinary unit generating groundbreaking solutions for complicated military needs. Much of Pratt’s work with HUNT has focused on the design of robot networks that function without central control. Functioning much like social insects such as ants, these networks must adapt to the loss of members in rapidly changing and dangerous environments. His research explores how robot networks can avoid information overload by mimicking ants’ ability to distribute decision-making throughout their colony, and how collective choices made by ants about food sources emerge from the behaviors of individual ants in a colony.
Pratt has served his professional peers as a member of the editorial board of PLOS ONE since 2011, and has acted as an ad hoc reviewer for more than 85 publications, including Science, Current Biology, Animal Behavior, Journal of Experimental Biology, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA. He has published 36 papers in highly ranked peer-review journals, and these contributions have accumulated nearly 1,300 citations from other authors.
Since arriving at ASU in 2006, Pratt has gained a reputation as a skilled teacher who makes learning enjoyable and engaging. He has supervised or advised 20 graduate researchers, including doctoral and post-doctoral students. He has made presentations on his research to audiences as diverse as the Computational Social Science Society of the Americas and the Strategic Studies Group at the Naval War College.
Pratt is a member of the Animal Behavior Society, the International Union for the Study of Social Insects, and Entomological Society of America. Prior to his arrival at ASU, he worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research/MIT Center for Genome Research, Harvard University, the University of Bath, and Princeton University.