Orit Peleg headshot
Associate Professor • External Faculty, Santa Fe Institute
Computer Science

Office: JSCBB D317 


Orit Peleg seeks to understand the behavior of disordered living systems by merging tools from physics, biology, engineering, and computer science. Peleg draws from a multidisciplinary background: she received a B.S. in physics and computer science and an M.S. in physics from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. She completed her Ph.D. in material science at ETH Zurich, where she began modeling competitive interactions in biophysical systems. Dr. Peleg used computational techniques to study a wide range of protein interactions, from fibronectin chains and fibers to the dynamic behavior of actin filaments. During postdoctoral work at Harvard University, Dr. Peleg became invested in a broad range of biophysics research. She began investigating order and disorder in protein evolution, which progressed to an interest in the organization of insect swarms. Dr. Peleg pursues a dynamic line of inquiry, leveraging tools from one discipline to answer questions in another.

Dr. Peleg’s research is aimed at understanding how biological communication signals are generated and interpreted. While the channel may change - whether chemical, sound, or light - the living creatures of our world all encode high-dimensional biological features into low-dimensional communication patterns. She uses insect swarms as a model system for identifying how organisms harness the dynamics of communication signals, perform spatiotemporal integration of these signals, and propagate those signals to neighboring organisms. Examples include fireflies who communicate over long distances using light signals, and bees who serve as signal amplifiers to propagate pheromone-based information about the queen’s location.

Dr. Peleg is a global leader in the Physics of Living Systems. In addition to her faculty appointment at BioFrontiers and in the Department of Computer Science, she is also affiliated with the Departments of Physics, Applied Math, and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. In addition, she is an External Faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute. She has won numerous distinguished awards for her research and teaching. In 2021, she was named a National Geographic Explorer, selected as Faculty Fellow of the CU Boulder Research & Innovation Office, and won a Junior Scientific Award from the Complex Systems Society “for her contributions to the understanding of collective dynamics.” In 2022, she was selected as a Timmerhaus Ambassador by the University of Colorado President’s Teaching Scholars Program and won both a Cottrell Scholar Award from the Research Cooperation for Science Advancement and a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. In 2023, she was chosen as Sloan Fellow in Physics by the Sloan Foundation. She is passionate about engaging the public with her work and has been featured or interviewed in media outlets such as the New York Times, National Public Radio, the National Park Service, Harper’s Magazine, The Guardian, Smithsonian Magazine, and National Geographic.