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SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program. Additional AOs for the Amgen Scholars program can be found here.

Specific GROWTH projects being offerred for summer 2019 can be found here.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be
U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

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Project:  Opinion Formation on Networks
Disciplines:  Applied and Computational Mathematics, Physics
Mentor:  Franca Hoffmann, Von Karman Instructor, (EAS),
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  NOTE: This project will be mentored jointly by Dr. Franca Hoffmann (von Karman Instructor in Mathematics here at Caltech) and Dr. Mason Porter (Professor of Mathematics at UCLA and a Caltech alumnus, The project will be based either at Caltech or at UCLA.

In the social, behavioral, and economic sciences, it is an important problem to study and forecast which opinions will eventually dominate in a large population, if there will be a consensus, and how long it takes a consensus to form. Models of opinion formation and evolution have been studied intensively in many disciplines (e.g., sociology and physics) and from numerous perspectives, and the qualitative behavior depends strongly on both the chosen model for opinion dynamics and structure of interactions between people (in the form of network structure) on which opinions evolve. This project focuses on bounded-confidence models, in which opinions occur along a continuum in some space and agents change their opinions from interactions with agents whose opinions are sufficiently close to their own (but not from agents whose opinions are overly different). Most studies of bounded-confidence models have focused on studying consensus, when only one emerges after a sufficiently long time, but one can instead ask questions that are more pertinent for applications. For example, how does network structure effect opinion dynamics? Can opinion models such as bounded-confidence models give insights into the formation of opinion “echo chambers” and the persistence and spreading of extremist opinions?
Description:  The objective of this project is to introduce generalizations to conventional bounded-confidence models and to study their effects on opinion dynamics. Traditionally, bounded confidence models place opinions of individuals on a one-dimensional axis between two extremes (say, “Left” and “Right”). However, analysis of empirical data suggests that it is useful to examine opinions on more than one opinion dimension. It is also useful to consider heterogeneous agents, as some may be more easily influenced then others, some may care more about some dimensions in opinion space than others, some may make larger compromise steps than others, and so on. This project will have mathematical modeling (of social and political phenomena), numerical computation, and mathematical analysis.
Student Requirements:  Linear algebra, programming (using e.g. MATLAB/Python)
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    Caltech students only 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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