Swarm Intelligence and Self Assembly

CSCI 7000-002

Ants cooperating to form a bridge

Ants cooperating to create a bridge for others to carry food back to the colony. (Credit: iStockphoto/Hung Meng Tan)

Instructor: Dr. Dustin Reishus
Email: reishus@colorado.edu
Time: MW 4pm-5:15pm
Location: ECCR 137
Office: ECOT 735
Office hours: TBD

Course Information

This course will explore the collective behavior of large-scale distributed systems, in which the basic components range from individual molecules to social insects to swarming robots. It will introduce mathematical models that can be used to formally analyze properties of these systems, explore the expressive power of the ensemble systems, and characterize the simplicity of the individual components.

DNA Smiley face

Smiley face self-assembled from DNA (Credit: Paul Rothemund)

We will use case studies from various disciplines including

  • Biology (e.g., ant foraging, cockroach aggregation)
  • Biochemistry (e.g., DNA self-assembly, molecular computation)
  • Robotics (e.g., swarm robotics, self-reconfigurable robots)
We will analyze the behavior of these systems using mathematical models including
  • Differential and difference equation models
  • Fokker-Planck diffusion models
  • The tile assembly model


This is a project-based course.  There will be no graded homework assignments and no exams.  Grades will be based on

  • Active participation in class lectures and discussions (10%)
  • Presentation of a paper of the student’s choosing (20%)

And a final project which consists of

  • Project proposal (15%)
  • Oral presentation (25%)
  • Written report (30%)

Students may collaborate with one another on the final project to produce a joint final report.

Textbook & Required Reading

There is no textbook for this course. Required reading will consist of articles listed below. In addition, students may be asked to find additional articles related to course material.

Reading list



Students are expected to abide by, and will be held to, CU’s honor code.