The emergence of a functionally flexible brain during early infancy

I’m excited that our latest collaborative network neuroscience paper has now appeared in PNAS. Working closely with Weiyan Yin in Weili Lin‘s group and many others in the Biomedical Research Imaging Center at the UNC School of Medicine, we use the notion of flexibility, previously introduced for functional magnetic resonance imaging data in terms of the multilayer network community detection tools developed in our group, to study brain activity in typically developing infants. I find it very gratifying to see that these multilayer community detection tools continue to find important applications, and I hope to continue to see further developments as we continue to improve the available methods for such network science tasks.

Press Release:

Update: Our paper appeared in the Highlights in PNAS for September 2, 2020.

PANNG minisymposium for SIAM MDS20

A big thank you to Dane Taylor for leading the organization of yesterday’s minisymposium on Pattern Analysis for Networks and Network Generalizations, held as part of the extended virtual talk schedule of the SIAM Conference on Mathematics of Data Science (MDS20). I greatly enjoyed being part of this minisymposium with Dane, Austin Benson, and Tanya Berger-Wolf, and was thrilled to see we had an audience of over 40 participants with us live during the event. It was wonderful to “see” everyone, and I look forward to an opportunity to see some of you in person in the hopefully not too distant future.

Both of the software packages I talked about in my talk are available on GitHub and by pip install: CHAMP (with Weir and Gibson) and ModularityPruning (by Gibson). The paper detailing the method implemented in the ModularityPruning package is in preparation. Feel free to reach out if you’re using either of these packages. We’d love to help and to see these packages get used by a wider audience.

Mucha gives Focus on Math talk at BYU

A big thank you to everyone in the Mathematics department at BYU for hosting me this week to give their Focus on Math talk and follow up with more details in the Discrete Math seminar. I had a fabulous time and greatly enjoyed our many mathematical conversations.

Eun Lee’s work covered in Ars Technica

A hearty congratulations to postdoctoral associate Dr. Eun Lee both for her paper on social perception bias published last year in Nature Human Behaviour and for the recent coverage of that paper in Ars Technica. Well done Eun!

Network analysis of languages

I’m very excited to have played a small part in new work led by UNC Psychology graduate student Josh Jackson and others in Kristen Lindquist‘s lab that appeared last week in Science analyzing patterns of colexification through network analysis. Congratulations to Josh, Kristen, and everybody else involved on the very interesting work and all of the great attention this paper has been getting!

Jackson, Joshua Conrad, Joseph Watts, Teague R. Henry, Johann-Mattis List, Robert Forkel, Peter J. Mucha, Simon J. Greenhill, Russell D. Gray, and Kristen A. Lindquist. “Emotion Semantics Show Both Cultural Variation and Universal Structure.” Science 366, no. 6472 (December 20, 2019): 1517–22.

UNC University Communications
Los Angeles Times
Scientific American
Smithsonian Magazine
Science News
The Guardian
Daily Mail

MURI Annual Review 2019

As noted when it was awarded, I’m exceptionally excited to be part of the ARO MURI project “Multiscale integration of neural, social, and network theory to understand and predict transitions from illness to wellness” with Emily Falk and Dani Bassett at Penn and Kevin Ochsner at Columbia.

Here at UNC, this grant now partially supports the work of all three current postdoctoral associates in the lab: Zach Boyd, Eun Lee and Emma Smith. The four of us just got back from a our annual review in Philadelphia. It’s a pleasure and honor to work with all of these awesome people from the four labs. We have a bunch of great work to publish soon!

In case it isn’t obvious to all readers: Kevin and I are the two nearly-identical hairstyles in the back row in the center, with Dani and Emily standing in front of us. Zach is just to my left in front of me. Emma and then Eun are immediately on Dani’s right.

Feature-Based Classification appears in Network Science

I’m of course biased because it’s a project that I was part of, but I think this paper of ours is a wonderfully simple and powerful idea. There’s a ton of great work in the literature on network classification. In this “end note” in Network Science, we show that you can do a really great job on some network classification problems by picking descriptive measures that we’re all used to using in social network analysis and network science.

EndNote: Feature-based classification of networks
Ian Barnett, Nishant Malik, Marieke L. Kuijjer, Peter J. Mucha and Jukka-Pekka Onnela

Threshold Networks Conference in Nottingham

A big thank you to the organizers of the Threshold Networks conference at University of Nottingham. It was a great conference full of interesting talks and engaging conversations. I was honored to be invited and to get to be the kickoff speaker on the first day after the tutorials. And I’m also happy to have Des Higham make fun of me for some of my particular choices in my presentation.

(It’s a network science joke. But, hey, if the trophy had been there on site and I hadn’t done this, I’d probably be kicking myself. And in case you were wondering, @MuchaPeter is not me.)


Scott Emmons named Churchill Scholar

Congratulations to undergraduate Scott Emmons, a long-time member of our research group, on his being named one of the 16 Churchill Scholars for 2019! After he finishes up his honors thesis here at UNC this Spring, Scott will head off to for a year of study at the University of Cambridge, where he will be affiliated with Churchill College. Congratulations Scott!

Read more here.

SIAM Committee on Science Policy

Having spent the last few days in Washington, D.C., I want to express special thanks to Nick Higham and Dave Levermore for inviting me to serve on the SIAM Committee on Science Policy. It has been very interesting to hear more about different aspects of national science policy and federal funding directly from the people directing these efforts. And I have been inspired seeing the many ways in which the members of this committee advocate for science. I’m truly honored to be part of this group.

If you want to learn more about what happens when the Committee visits Washington, I recommend the recent SIAM News article by Natalie Sheils, “Reflections from a SIAM Science Policy Fellowship Recipient.” Postdoctoral researchers and early career researchers interested in becoming new science policy fellows can submit applications through December 7.

Sun rising over the U.S. Capitol, November 19, 2018