Research Groups and Projects


Adamic, Lada--NetSI
Agrawal, Arun--Central Africal Forests and Institutions
Brown, Dan--Project SLUCE
Bruch, Elizabeth--Dynamic Models of Racial Residential Segregation
Deegan, Robert--The Deegan Group: Nonlinear Science Laboratory
Dempsey, Amanda--School Mandates for HPV Vaccination
Doering, Charlie--Collaborative Research Nonlinar Systems
Doering, Charlie--Studies in Mathematical Physics
Kaplan, George--Network on Inequality, Complexity and Health
Newman, Mark--Networks and Contagion
Page, Scott--Creating Wise Crowds
Page, Scott--Games Theory, Culture and Institutional Path Dependence
Page, Scott--Teaching Computational Thinking
Page, Scott--Complex Systems Advanced Academic Workshop
Rohani, Pej--Rohani Lab

Research Archive


The Center for the Study of Complex Systems supports a diverse body of research, training and educational initiatives. The following is a list of our active research groups and projects.

A list of projects from previous years can be found in the Research Archive section.

Research Groups and Projects

Principal Investigator: Lada Adamic
Sources of Funding: NSF, among others

Together with my research group, NetSI, I study the structure and dynamics of social and information networks. Here's information on a few of the projects, somewhat arbitrarily grouped.

Web site:

Central African Forests and Institutions
Principal Investigators: Arun Agrawal
Co-PI: Rick Riolo
Source of funding: National Science Foundation

This project seeks to understand the relationships between several actors including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), industry, and government, and their effects on logging concessions in Central Africa. Our project is a comparative study of two countries, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo and concentrates on three time periods between 1995 and the present. For more information, visit

Project SLUCE (Spatial Land Use Change and Ecological Effects at the Rural-Urban Interface
Principal Investigators: Dan Brown
Co-PIs: Scott Page, Rick Riolo
Source of Funding: National Science Foundation's Biocomplexity Program

This project investigates processes that link the dynamics of the land-atmosphere carbon budget in exurban residential areas, which may have regional and global scale implications, preferences for land-cover types and patterns on these lands, and land-management activities of residents and developers. The goal of the project is to obtain a clearer understanding of the relationships between carbon dynamics, land-management activities, and market and non-market values of land-uses and land-covers--focusing on how carbon dynamics might respond in a non-linear fashion to various drivers of land-cover management.

Project SLUCE web site:

Dynamic Models of Racial Residential Segregation
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Bruch
Co-PI: Rick Riolo
Source of Funding: National Institutes of Health

This project outlines a plan of research to better understand the causes of racial and economic residential segregation in American cities. We propose to develop data-based models of household residential mobility and to use these models as a basis for a realistic, agent-based model of neighborhood formation and residential segregation. Current methods used to study residential segregation have examined specific single processes linked to segregation. These methods usually rely on intuitive judgments to draw conclusions about how these processes aggregate to form segregated neighborhoods. This is problematic because stylized simulation models show feedback and constraints in residential systems produce relations of inputs and outcomes that are highly interactive and non-linear. Our alternative approach is based on discrete choice models of destination selection in residential relocation and an agent-based simulation. We estimate the discrete choice models using the data on mobility from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics matched with data from the decennial censuses. Our proposed basic model incorporates race and neighborhood racial composition, income and housing cost, neighborhood income composition, and tenure (owner or renter). We also propose an extension to the model that incorporate wealth, housing market discrimination, and impacts of neighborhood change in the residential neighborhood and adjacent neighborhoods. The base model we propose could incorporate other future refinements toward greater realism and usefulness. The model has two uses. The first use is to address basic science questions regarding the causes of segregation. The second use is to evaluate the effects of spatially targeted housing policies on race and income segregation. We use the model to evaluate the effects of the shift from traditional fixed-site public housing to housing vouchers and mixed-income housing on race and income segregation.

The Deegan Group: Non Linear Science Laboratory
Principal Investigator: Robert Deegan
Sources of Funding: James S. McDonnell Foundation, NSG, Among Others

Simple systems driven from equilibrium will spontaneously form patterns. A classic demonstration is a pot of water on a stove. If the stove is not turned on, the water remains still. The fluid is in equilibrium, and all parts behave the same; there is no structure. But if the heat is turned on, the water begins to move in an organized manner. The water rises along the walls of the pot and falls in the middle. From initially homogeneous conditions the water has developed an organized dynamical structure. The world is filled with countless examples of this general phenomenon from the mundane-the ornate architecture of a snow flake, the crown-like splash of a drop, the dark ring around a coffee strain-to the exotic-the Earth's magnetic field, sunspots, the large scale structure of the universe.

Is all the structure in world around us an inevitable product of the forcing? Is life itself a generic manifestation of driven systems? These are fascinating issues that research on nonequilibrium systems and pattern formation will hopefully one day answer.

My research focus is patterns in fluids and solids. Lately, I've been working on drop impact, vibrated shear thickening fluids, vibrated drops, the statistics of caustic networks, and exploding seed pods. Some past projects include the fracture of rubber and silicon, and the formation of rings from a drying drop.

Web site:

School Mandates for Human Papillomavirus Vaccination: Use of an Agent-Based Model to Explore Potential Impact of Social Networks and Different Policy Options
Principal Investigator: Amanda Dempsey
Co-PI: Rick Riolo
Source of Funding: National Institutes of HealthM

The broad objective of this project is to explore the potential impact of the different HPV vaccine mandates under consideration on attitudes about, and utilization of, three adolescent-targeted vaccines: HPV, Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) and tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap). Our over-arching hypothesis is some HPV mandates under consideration could lead to policy resistant conditions that may not be intuitively predictable based on the assumptions we make about how the mandates affect individual-level behaviors. In our experiments, we will explore the role of social networks in propagating vaccine-related beliefs and behaviors.

Collaborative Research: Reduced Dynamical Descriptions of Infinite-Dimensional Nonlinear systems via a-Priori Basis Functions from Upper Bound Theories
Principal Investigator: Charlie Doering
Source of Funding: National Science Foundation, Division of Mathematics

This project, in collaboration with researchers in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Hampshire, utilizes novel methods and insights from the rigorous analysis of turbulent fluid flows to formulate and implement accurate low-dimensional dynamical systems models of ostensibly infinite dimensional systems. The focus of the pioneering studies in this area is Rayleigh-Bénard convection in a fluid saturated porous medium, a problem displaying a rich variety of nonlinear phenomena including hierarchies of bifurcations and spatio-temporal chaos.

Studies in Mathematical Physics: Advection, Convection & Turbulent Transport
Principal Investigator: Charlie Doering
Source of Funding: National Science Foundation, Division of Physics

This project is a study of qualitative and quantitative properties of solutions of the partial differential equations of fluid mechanics including the Navier-Stokes equations. The latter constitute the basic mathematical model of fluid flow and are believed to contain turbulence among their solutions. Turbulent transport and mixing have important implications and applications in many areas of the applied physical sciences and engineering from aeronautics to astrophysics, and from meteorology to materials manufacturing, and they present a number of outstanding challenges for mathematical physics. Investigations are carried out utilizing modern applied analysis, computation, and direct numerical simulations.

Network on Inequality, Complexity and Health(NCIH)
Principal Investigator: George Kaplan
Co-PIs: Carl Simon, Rick Riolo

The National Institutes of Health launched a multidisciplinary network of experts who will explore new approaches to understanding the origins of health disparities, or differences in the burden of disease among population groups. Using state-of-the-science conceptual and computational models, the network's goal is to identify important areas where interventions or policy changes could have the greatest impact in eliminating health disparities. Led by chair and Principal Investigator George A. Kaplan, PhD., NICH's primary goal is to catalyze groundbreaking research on health disparities and population health using systems science methods.

Web site:

Networks and Contagion among People and Computers
Principal Investigator: Mark Newman
Source of Funding: James S. McDonnell Foundation

This group is conducting an empirical investigation of networks including networks of physical contacts between individuals by which disease spreads and the social network of contacts between computer users by which computer viruses spread. For more information about the Networks project, please visit Mark Newman's web site:

Creating Wise Crowds: Diversity Maintenance Through Incentives
Principal Investigator: Scott Page
Source of Funding: National Science Foundation, Innovation and Organizational Sciences (IOS) Program

Effective management of organizations requires the ability to make forecasts of the future. These forecasts guide day-to-day decisions such as the allocation of resources and can warn of busts and identify booms. In this research, we are constructing a new framework that demonstrates the contributions of individual cognitive depth and collective diversity on forecast accuracy. We then explore the ability of incentive structures to maintain that depth and diversity.

Games Theory, Culture and Institutional Path Dependence
Principal Investigator: Scott Page
Source of Funding: Dept. of Defense, Army Research Office (ARO)

In the proposed research we combine analytic, computational and experimental methods to study the relationship between cultural and institutional performance. In our framework, cultural factors influence the success of institutions and institutions, in turn, influence culture. This interplay between institutions and culture creates the potential for institutional and cultural path dependence. Our proposed research identifies explicit behavioral patterns produced by institutions and describes them with mathematical formalism. We then explore whether and how these behaviors transfer across domains using computational and experimental methods. Our research has implications for the design and choice of restoration programs after military interventions or government upheavals. Our research can show how new governing institutions can leverage existing patterns of behavior to produce more efficient and robust outcomes.

Teaching Computational Thinking Through Integration of Dynamic Systems Modeling
Principal Investigator: Scott Page
Source of Funding: National Science Foundation Sub-award from Oberlin College

Enormous progress in computational technology has generated a new methodology for learning about and advancing traditional sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology, as well as social sciences like economics and cross-disciplinary fields such as environmental studies. Computational Modeling (CM) applies numerical methods, models, and algorithms to complex problems that are intractable by purely analytical or experimental techniques. It is distinct from computer science, which studies computers and computation, and it is different from the traditional scientific methods of theory and experimentation, but interacts closely with them.

We propose to collaborate with the University of Michigan's Center for the Study of Complex Systems (CSCS) to demonstrate how computational modeling can transform many areas of the undergraduate curriculum. Computational Modeling makes frontier problems accessible, and it can be introduced with a minimum of mathematical background. This allows rapid start-up for students who are eager to explore exciting content in a discipline. Once so engaged, they will have incentive to deepen their understanding of the mathematical and algorithmic basics underpinning the CM tools that they are using.

Complex Systems Advanced Academic Workshop (CSAAW)
Coordinators (2010-2011): Dan Katz, Abe Gong and Rick Riolo
Source of Funding: UM Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop Grant

The goal of CSAAW is to support students who are writing dissertations that involve the interdisciplinary ideas and techniques of complex systems research. Through a series of regular meetings, students will discuss their own work and receive feedback from other students, faculty and researchers. Other meetings will consist of talks by and discussions with invited speakers who are active in complex systems research. These speakers, many of whom will be recent graduates, will discuss their own work, provide advice on how to successfully complete a complex systems (interdisciplinary) dissertation, and how to navigate through the post-graduate job market. 

More information on CSAAW.

Rohani Lab
Principal Investigator: Pej Rohani
Source of Funding: McDonnell Foundation, NSF, Gates Foundation, among others

Research in the Rohani lab focuses on population biology, usually of host-natural enemy interactions, with a view to understanding fundamental processes in ecology and evolution. First, we use a combination of mathematical modelling and data analysis to understand the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases of humans and wildlife, including childhood infections and emerging infectious diseases.  Second, we use a combination of laboratory experiments and statistical and mathematical models to understand the evolution, persistence and competitive coexistence of insect host-parasitoid-pathogen assemblages.

Web site:

Research Archive

Computational Models for Belief Revision, Group Decisions and Cultural Shifts
Principal Investigators: Scott Page, Jenna Bednar
Source of Funding: U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research

This project, in collaboration with a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is developing and comparing a variety of computational models, grounded in previous and future studies of cultural differences. The aim of the models is to predict intent and patterns of behavior, given new concepts. A further objective is to study the dynamics of the different models, when perturbed by unexpected external forces that put pressure on existing belief structures. Although much of the modeling will be through simulations, some grounding will be possible using either lab-based mockups, data currently available or anticipated and media reports that trigger reactions among elements of a population.