Simon Garnier, PhD, whose research interests focus on bio-cellular sensing, has been appointed to the faculty of NJIT’s College of Science and Liberal Arts in the Federated Department of Biological Sciences an assistant professor. He previously was a lecturer and post-doctoral research fellow in the Princeton University Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He will join the talents of more than 20 other new faculty members on campus this fall. The newcomers will add momentum to NJIT’s strategic plan for making a major impact on the quality of life in the 21st century. This interdisciplinary initiative is focused on three vital areas: convergent life science and engineering, “digital everyware” — ubiquitous computing — and sustainable systems.The women and men joining NJIT to serve a growing student body bring expertise that spans diverse supporting clusters. These include advanced manufacturing, architecture design and construction, big data, biochemistry, business systems, material science and engineering, and sensing and control.
“NJIT’s academic status and interdisciplinary strategy have attracted people at various stages of their careers, and who offer NJIT both distinctive abilities and new resources,” says Provost Ian Gatley. “Enthusiasm for NJIT’s interdisciplinary commitment was apparent during the search process. Everyone interviewed spoke about how the problems they work on are inherently interdisciplinary, how they like to work on teams, how they look forward to collaborating with colleagues across disciplines.” Donald Sebastian, NJIT’s senior vice president for research and development, emphasizes that connecting with real-world issues is at the heart of expectations for a technological research university. “Academic disciplines are the core of the university and the framework for learning. However, their alignment with industries of the future is not as obvious as with those sectors that have prevailed over the last century. Our strategic research thrusts are designed to make those 21st-century connections explicit.” Convergent life science and engineering, digital everyware and sustainable systems — themes that transcend departments or colleges — shaped NJIT’s hiring plan, he adds.
Garnier has published widely on research in fields that include ethology, experimental psychology, cognitive and social sciences and swarm intelligence.
Garnier is interested mainly in the emergence of intelligent collective behaviors in groups of social animals. His work is dedicated in part to the observation, description and modeling of the self-organized processes leading to consensus decision making in social insect colonies and schools of fish. He also studies phenomena related to traffic organization in ants and human beings. Additionally, he applies the principles underlying self-organization in social animals to the coordination of swarm robotics.
Garnier’s work relies on a strong experimental foundation. He makes extensive use of innovative computer vision techniques in the laboratory and field to collect large datasets that support the design of data-driven models. He believes that theoretical and experimental work should proceed together and emulate each other as much as possible. This approach has proven to be very efficient when applied to the study of collective animal behaviors.
Garnier also engages regularly in activities that aim to increase interest in science outside of the higher-education community. These activities include participation in the annual national French science festival La Fête de la Science,” speaking to pre-college students considering careers in science, and judging science fairs. In addition to his doctorate, Garnier has a post-graduate Diplôme D'études Approfondies degree in neuroscience, behavior and cognition, and a master’s in behavior and neuroscience from the University of Toulouse. He earned a bachelor’s in biochemistry, cellular biology and physiology from the University of Bordeaux.