Nicolas Coucke

Ph.D. Student


After studying biomedical engineering and philosophy at the KU Leuven, I came to the ULB to pursue my interest in the mind.


During my Ph.D., I want to find out what self-organization can teach us about our minds. On the intra-personal level, brain activity self-organizes to form conscious states. On the inter-personal level, people self-organize into social structures that adapt to the environment. The first goal of my Ph.D. is thus to study how (1) consciousness arises through self-organizing processes and (2) how consciousness, in turn, influences the self-organizing processes that guide human collectiveness.


My second line of research is conducted at the artificial intelligence lab of the ULB (IRIDIA). This lab has a long history of studying swarm intelligence. This discipline studies how simple animals can collectively solve complex problems. In swarm robotics, these behaviours are then replicated in robots, with potential applications to medicine, industry, and rescue missions. As part of my research, we want to study how human collective intelligence relates to classical swarm intelligence. To this end, we will develop a virtual environment in which people interact and form social structures. Ultimately, the second goal of my PhD is to find out whether insights from human self-organization can be used to enhance current swarm robotics algorithms.