Unravelling the complexity of societal challenges Read online
Universiteit Utrecht
Centre for Complex Systems Studies

Message from the board

Dear reader,

Despite the continuing corona epidemic, there are many exciting developments currently underway at the Centre for Complex Systems Studies. Three new PhD candidates recently started working at our centre. Anna Maria Biletta is one of these new members of the centre, and she will introduce herself in this newsletter. Furthermore, the centre has started a collaboration with the Utrecht University strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability. Together, we have set up a Complexity of Sustainability fund to stimulate cooperation in three workshops over a period of two years. And last but not least, we will introduce more online talks to keep our virtual community lively.

The board of the CCSS

Model proves local train delays can lead to nation-wide gridlock

  CCSS members

CCSS members Debabrata Panja and Mark Dekker have developed a model for predicting the potentially severe consequences of minor disruptions in a complex transport network. One such network is a railway timetable, where an initially localised problem can result in nation-wide gridlock. “The interaction between staff and trains makes the system vulnerable.” Their article has been published in the prestigious academic journal PLOS ONE.

Read the article      »

Meet PhD candidate Anna Maria Biletta


Anna Maria Biletta started as a PhD candidate at the Centre for Complex Systems Studies last December. She will work on the subject of Spectral Analysis of Random Graphs, under the supervision of Ivan Kryven, Mara Baudena and Anna von der Heydt. She briefly introduces herself.

An introduction      »

Apply for the first Complexity of Sustainability Workshop

  CCSS members

The Complexity of Sustainability fund has been set up to help build a diverse transdisciplinary community of UU researchers and societal stakeholders focused on developing holistic approaches to stimulating a just and sustainable transition. The fund is a joint initiative by the Pathways to Sustainability strategic theme and the Centre for Complex Systems Studies of Utrecht University. The fund aims to stimulate cooperation in three workshops over a period of two years. The first workshop aims to develop a position paper on how to create a co-produced form of complexity science that meets the needs of the Sustainability Transition.

More information and application      »

Complexaton progress

The CCSS Complexaton was kicked off last November. Four teams of students signed up to work on different challenges: sustainable diets, knowledge flows in industries, plastic littering in oceans, and chemical reactions in oil paintings. The contestants are all Master’s students and PhD candidates, and represent disciplines ranging from mathematics to economics and social sciences.
The teams presented a mid-term progress report in the beginning of February, and the final reports will be handed in during the upcoming weeks. Three external jury members will evaluate the reports, and the final presentations will take place on 20 April. We welcome everyone to attend these presentations and witness which team wins the € 1,000 cash prize. In the meanwhile, please watch our recordings of both the kickoff meeting and mid-term event.

About the Complexaton Finale      »

Complexity talks on demand 


The online talks give us the opportunity to share the recordings afterwards, so you can watch the presentation on the time and day that suits you best. Many researchers already use this option, with some videos reaching over 250 views. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel to be informed about our latest uploads.

Subscribe to our channel      »

Modelling infectious diseases

Now more than ever, scientists around the world are studying the spread of infectious diseases and how to predict outbreaks, so that local health authorities will be able to quickly limit their spread in the future. CCSS members Debabrata Panja and Mark Dekker have written an article for the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Natuurkunde, about the connections between epidemiology and statistical physics.

Read the article (in Dutch)      »


All events  »
Programme coordinator
Qingyi Feng