Professor Fiona Polack: Complexity and Software Engineering

Professor of Software Engineering

The world is complex, but people prefer to see it as an ordered and predictable element of an ordered universe. I will start by exploring these statements. A complex system is a collection of things that interact on some “local” bases, so that the global behaviour cannot be predicted by observing the lowerlevel behaviour – birds flocking, midges swarming, fish schooling, galaxies forming, but also human crowds, economic and social trends, molecular interactions – in fact, every aspect of the known universe is part of a single, massive, complex system. Ordered and predictable systems are, arguably, artificial systems invented by engineers and mathematicians. I will discuss the consequences of ignoring complexity, and the ways in which my work has attempted to address complexity in creating demonstrably fit-for-purpose modelling and simulation, notably work on immune systems modelling, and reflect on potential applications to whole-systems smart energy.


Image of Professor Fiona Polack Professor Fiona Polack joined Keele from York in 2017. Her research focuses on practical use of state-of-the-art academic techniques, from formal software specification in the 1990s, to model-driven software engineering in the 2010s. She uses her work on modelling software to support the software engineering of computer simulations of complex systems, as part of interdisciplinary work to develop demonstrably-fit-for-purpose complex systems simulations for use in laboratory research. Whilst at York, she co-founded three interdisciplinary research groups: the York Centre for Complex Systems Analysis, the York Computational Immunology Laboratory, and York’s Biological Physical Sciences Institute. Since joining Keele, she has helped to develop strategy and direction for the new Sustainable Futures Institute, and is academic lead for a major industrial collaboration aiming to exploit Keele’s unique smart energy network demonstrator as a national resource for development and research into achievable smart energy -- both of which offer considerable scope for complex systems simulation.   


Event date
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Westminster Theatre, Chancellor's Building
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Contact email
[email protected]
Contact telephone
01782 734036