Search form

Better understanding of complex systems – through connectivity research

Dr. Marc-Thorsten Hütt is Professor of Computational Systems Biology at Jacobs University. (Source: Jacobs University)


December 11, 2019

It deals with the transport of sediment in river networks, of stimuli in the brain, of information in groups of people and of environmental influences in metabolic networks: If a system consists of many parts that interact, self-organize and jointly generate an action, it is considered to be "complex". A transdisciplinary project funded by the European Union is dedicated to explaining these complex systems with the help of connectivity research. The project involves seven disciplines and 13 partners, including Jacobs University and Dr. Marc-Thorsten Hütt, Professor of Computational Systems Biology.

The brain is a complex system, cells and the internet are – or even landscapes, which are shaped by the sediment transport caused by wind and water. Science often knows a lot about individual parts of such a system, but less about the big, coherent picture. The organization of complex systems as networks and the resulting dynamic behavior are the subject of connectivity research.

Connectivity thinking is present in many disciplines. As of now, there has been no attempt to bring it together transcending the boundaries of disciplines. The research project "Interdisciplinary connectivity: Understanding and managing complex systems using connectivity science" aims to achieve exactly this. It creates a network of astrophysicists, computer scientists, ecologists, geomorphologists, hydrologists, neuroscientists, systems biologists and social scientists.

"With connectivity science, we want to initiate a new field of research that unites these diverse disciplines within the same methodological framework," says Prof. Hütt. The aim is to develop a toolbox containing methods that can be employed by all disciplines. As part of the project, Prof. Hütt's research group will train two out of 15 PhD students, serve as second supervisors for three other PhD students, and conduct an interdisciplinary workshop on the campus of Jacobs University.

The research project is initially limited to three years. Scientists from Great Britain, Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Norway and the Netherlands are involved. The funding volume for Jacobs University amounts to half a million euros.