Yale launches institute to expand interdisciplinary study of networks

Yale will celebrate the opening of its new Institute for Network Science (YINS) on Wednesday, Feb. 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. at 17 Hillhouse Ave. The institute’s research will explore fundamental properties of networks as they appear throughout the biological, physical, and social sciences.

Yale Provost Benjamin Polak and T. Kyle Vanderlick, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, will deliver opening remarks. They will be joined by the institute’s co-directors: Nicholas Christakis, the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Social and Natural Science, and Daniel Spielman, the Henry Ford II Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics.

The institute will foster synergy among researchers from a broad range of academic disciplines — including engineering, computer science, the social sciences, evolutionary biology, math, physics, and medicine — to advance the study of networks.

“A goal of the institute is to expose researchers to the phenomena, measurements, methodologies, and challenges of those from different disciplines so that, through cross-fertilization, new techniques and methodologies can be developed,” said Spielman.

“Network science has the potential to develop novel solutions to problems in areas as diverse as epidemics, crime, telecommunications, voter apathy, technological innovation, drug discovery, and others," said Christakis who is also director of the Human Nature Lab.

For example, a recent Yale study involving network science, led by sociologist Andrew Papachristos, revealed that a person’s structural location within large-scale, face-to-face social networks was a key predictor in whether that individual will become a victim of gun homicide. Police departments around the country are using the analytic tools developed by Papachristos to implement crime prevention programs.

Examples of projects that faculty affiliated with YINS are engaged in include:

  • the design of power, communication, and sensor networks, as well as dynamically changing robotic networks;
  • the conduct of large-scale experiments with online and face-to-face networks  (in settings as diverse as schools, workplaces, and developing world villages); to facilitate the emergence of desirable properties in human populations, such as cooperation, innovation, voting, and health;
  • the identification of the role of social networks in the diffusion of individual behaviors and the emergence of collective action (riots, fads, stampedes, and so on);
  • the identification of properties of communication and exchange within different networks that determine the outcomes of diverse economic markets;
  • the development of computational algorithms for the analysis of networks;
  • the study of systems biology and gene regulation networks, and their role in pathogenesis and drug discovery;
  • the exploration of phase transitions in spin glasses and complex systems; and
  • the use of online and offline networks to track communicable diseases

Related story: http://news.yale.edu/2013/04/11/new-institute-will-advance-interdisciplinary-study-networks