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Centre for Complex Systems

Exploring complex natural and artificial systems
We study collective behaviours and critical phenomena in various contexts: brain dynamics, computational epidemiology, urban and social dynamics, swarm intelligence, distributed computation, systems biology and nanoscience.

About us

Complex systems is an approach to science, engineering, health and management that studies how relationships between parts give rise to the collective emergent behaviours of the entire system, and how the system interacts with its environment. 

Systems are considered complex when their dynamics cannot be easily predicted or explained as a linear summation of the individual dynamics of its components.

We draw together top researchers from CSIRO and across the University, including: 

Our research

Our research has an impact on diverse areas such as neuroengineering, epidemic modelling, active matter, systemic risk analysis and crisis forecasting, disaster and emergency management, as well as critical infrastructure stability.

It helps to develop solutions that can be applied to a wide range of industries including information and communication technologies, financial services, health, energy and civil and transport infrastructure.

CRISIS is funded as a Sydney Research Excellence Initiative (SREI 2020). It centres on the research project 'Modelling social risks and extreme events: from Angkor's demise to Australia’s housing crisis'.

This research program examines the greater Sydney area in 20th-21st centuries and the greater Angkor area in the 13th-14th centuries.

It will develop a cross-disciplinary framework for analysis, modelling and design of adaptive urban systems resilient to stresses, using advanced techniques from complex systems, network science, agent-based computational modelling, and dynamical systems.

Outcomes will include precise and efficient methods for forecasting critical dynamics during urban transformation, a computational model (including scaling of settlement sizes), calibrated to Australian datasets, and a software simulator of possible interventions.


Professor Mikhail Prokopenko, Associate Professor Eduardo Altmann, Professor Deborah Bunker, Professor Roland Fletcher, Dr Joseph Lizier, Dr Ramil Nigmatullin, Professor Kirsten McKenzie, Professor Richard Miles, Associate Professor Daniel Penny, Dr Somwrita Sarkar, Adjunct Associate Professor Tony Sleigh.

ARC Laureate Fellowship
  • 'The physical brain: emergent, multiscale, nonlinear, and critical dynamics'. Researcher: Professor Peter Robinson.
  • 'Philosophy of medicine for the 21st century'. Researcher: Professor Paul Griffiths.
ARC Discovery Projects
  • 'Large-scale computational modelling of epidemics in Australia: analysis, prediction and mitigation'. Researchers: Professor Mikhail Prokopenko, Professor Philippa Pattison, Manoj Gambhir, Associate Professor Joseph Lizier, Dr Mahendra Piraveenan, Timothy Germann.
  • 'Conceptual and modelling tools for non-paradigmatic evolutionary processes'. Researchers: Professor Paul Griffiths, Paul Rainey, Professor Peter Godfrey-Smith
  • 'Propagating neural waves: combined experimental and modelling study'. Researchers: Associate Professor Pulin Gong, Professor Paul Martin.
  • 'Neural spike variability: unifying conflicting views of neural dynamics'. Researcher: Associate Professor Pulin Gong.
  • 'Australian housing market risks: simulation, modelling and analysis'. Researchers: Dr Michael Harre, Professor Mikhail Prokopenko, Professor Doyne J. FarmerPaul Ormerod, Dr Markus Brede.
  • 'Functional magnetic resonance imaging: decoding the palimpsest'. Researchers: Professor Peter RobinsonMark Schira, Michael Breakspear.
  • 'Software-defined provisioning of IoT applications in fog computing systems'. Researchers: Professor Albert Zomaya, Dr Wei Bao.
  • 'A complex systems approach to preventing colony failure in honey bees'. Researchers: Dr Tanya Latty, Associate Professor Eduardo Altmann.
  • 'Mathematical model reduction for complex networks'. Researcher: Professor Georg Gottwald.
  • 'The shape of chaos: geometric advances in partially hyperbolic dynamics'. Researchers: Dr Andy Hammerlindl, Professor Georg Gottwald.
  • 'Understanding animals through movement'. Researchers: Dr Timothy Schaerf, Professor Ashley Ward.
  • 'Understanding the crowd - improving accuracy in collective motion theory'. Researcher: Professor Ashley Ward.
  • 'The physiological dimension of animal group and population dynamics'. Researchers: Professor Frank Seebacher, Professor Ashley Ward, Professor David Sumpter.
ARC Linkage Project
  • 'Contention-aware scheduling in cloud data centres'. Researchers: Professor Albert Zomaya, Professor Zahir Tari, Javed Taheri.
  • 'A novel scintillating optical fibre array for cancer imaging and therapy'. Researchers: Professor Zdenka Kuncic, P. Vial, Shaghik Atakaramians, Professor Steven Meikle.
  • 'Cloud resource allocation under bursty conditions for heavy-tailed job'. Professor Albert Zomaya, Professor Zahir Tari.
ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award
  • 'Relating function of complex networks to structure using information theory'. Researcher: Associate Professor Joseph Lizier.
  • 'Computational geophysical and astrophysical fluid dynamics at the petascale'. Researcher: Dr Geoffrey Vasil.
  • 'The forest and the trees: how global brain rhythms facilitate local information processing'. Researcher: Cliff Kerr.
NHMRC project
  • 'A targeted approach to age related disease: nanomedicines and the liver sinusoidal endothelium'. Researchers: Professor Victoria Cogger, Professor David Le Couteur, Professor Zdenka Kuncic, Associate Professor Peter McCourt.
  • 'Noradrenaline and Cognitive Dysfunction – Interrogating the Neglected Symptoms of Parkinson's disease'. Researcher: Dr James Mac Shine.
DVC Research/Brown Fellowship
  • 'Learning from nature: infrastructure design inspired by resilience in ant colonies and bee hives'. Researcher: Dr Tanya Latty.
John Templeton Foundation/large grants
  • 'Constructing objective biological criteria of health'. Researcher: Professor Paul Griffiths.

Our people

  • Director: Professor Mikhail Prokopenko, School of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering
  • Deputy Director: Associate Professor Pulin Gong, School of Physics, Faculty of Science
  • Deputy Director: Associate Professor Joseph Lizier, School of Engineering, Faculty of Engineering
  • Associate Professor Eduardo Altmann, School of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Science
  • Dr Tanya Latty, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science
  • Dr Somwrita Sarkar, Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning
  • Professor Paul Griffiths, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Professor Zdenka Kuncic, School of Physics, Faculty of Science
  • Professor Philippa Pattison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Education
  • Professor Peter Robinson, School of Physics, Faculty of Science
  • Professor Albert Zomaya, School of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering

Academic staff

Professional staff

Publication achievements

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