Mari Kawakatsu

Mari Kawakatsu

JSMF Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania


Thank you for visiting my website. I am a James S. McDonnell Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania and an affiliate of the Penn Center for Mathematical Biology. My postdoctoral mentor is Joshua Plotkin.

My research focuses on the theoretical modeling of social evolution and self-organization in collective systems. I am especially interested in understanding how inter-individual differences and population structures influence and are influenced by collective dynamics. I use tools from evolutionary game theory, dynamical systems, and network science to explore topics including

  • the role of peer-to-peer gossip in cooperation;
  • the impact of stereotype use on indirect reciprocity;
  • cooperation and polarization in group-structured populations;
  • emergent hierarchies in adaptive networks; and
  • self-organized division of labor in ant colonies.

I obtained my PhD in Applied and Computational Mathematics from Princeton University, where I was supervised by Simon Levin, Naomi Leonard, and Corina Tarnita. Prior to that, I completed my undergraduate studies in Physics and Sociology at Yale University.

Since 2021, I have served as the Communications Secretary for the Women in Network Science (WiNS) Society, which aims to foster opportunities for the education, employment, and career advancement of women, trans, and non-binary scholars in network science. To learn more about our activities, please follow us on Twitter and check out our website.


June 2024: I will presenting at the SIAM Conference on the Life Sciences (LS24) in Portland, OR.

May 2024: I will be participating in the Beijer Young Scholars workshop in Stockholm, Sweden.

May 2024: Dan Cooney, Chadi Saad-Roy, and I will be organizing a special session at the AMS Spring 2024 Western Sectional Meeting at San Francisco State University, where I will be giving a talk on the recent preprint “A mechanistic model of gossip, reputations, and cooperation” ( available on arXiv).

April 2024: Anshuman Swain, Grace Smith-Vidaurre, Harrison Hartle, and I co-organized a micro working group titled “Sampling Completeness and Metric Robustness of Bipartite Networks” at the Santa Fe Institute.

March 2024: I presented in the Mathematics and Statistics Colloquium at The College of New Jersey.

March 2024: “When do stereotypes undermine indirect reciprocity?” with Sebasti├ín Michel-Mata, Taylor A. Kessinger, Corina E. Tarnita, Joshua B. Plotkin is now published in in PLOS Computational Biology! Check out the Penn Today article about this work here.

October 2023: I co-organized Creative Convergence: At the Crossroads of the Arts, Ecology, Neuroscience, and Control Engineering at Princeton University.

October 2023: I attended the Postdocs in Complexity Conference XI at the Santa Fe Institute.

September 2023: I attended the Penn-Meiji Workshop on Mathematical Biology, hosted by the Center for Mathematical Biology at the University of Pennsylvania.

May 2023: I attended the SIAM Conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems (DS23) in Portland, OR. Alice Schwarze, Heather Zinn Brooks, and I organized a minisymposium titled “Women in Network Science” on Sunday, May 14th.

March 2023: I attended the Postdocs in Complexity Conference X at the Santa Fe Institute.

March 2023: I attended the American Mathematical Society (AMS) 2023 Spring Southeastern Sectional Meeting at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

January 2023: I attended the Winter Workshop on Complex Systems (WWCS) 2023, hosted at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). I gave a talk as part of the Simulation-based Science (SbS) seminar series hosted by UvA’s Institute for Advanced Study.

October 2022: I attended the Postdocs in Complexity Conference IX at the Santa Fe Institute.

September 2022: I attended the Building Networks: Women in Complex & Nonlinear Systems workshop at the Banff International Research Station (BIRS).