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From little things comes big science

Press release issued: 26 October 2006

Four million pounds has been awarded to the University of Bristol to set up the Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences.

Four million pounds has been awarded to the University of Bristol to set up the Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences.

Complexity Science deals with large networks of many smaller elements that interact to produce behaviour that cannot be predicted by looking at just one or two elements. Examples of the kind of problems Complexity Science might try to solve are:

  • Biology: how to identify what causes diseases such as Alzheimer’s by looking at the activity of individual brain cells.
  • Engineering: how the mobile phone network adapts to maintain its quality of service when too many people want to use it.
  • Chemistry: how to make ‘designer’ molecules that benefit mankind without unpredictable side-effects.

Professor John Hogan, Director of the Centre, said: “These practical challenges are at the heart of the need to develop new theories that have the capacity to revolutionise the world we live in. With this grant we will be able to develop a unique collaboration between thirteen departments across the University.”

The aim of the Centre is to provide a highly interdisciplinary four-year training programme for 15 extremely high calibre and motivated post-graduate students per year. These students will be expected to make ground-breaking discoveries in the new science of Complexity.

Unusually, the students will have a year of training before commencing their doctoral studies. During the training period, they will be exposed to leading-edge theoretical techniques (in mathematics, statistics and computer science), as well as attending lectures in areas to which the theories can be applied.

The students will be given the best possible information before choosing their doctoral project. Uniquely, they will also be allowed one false start should they find they don’t like their first choice. Each project will be jointly supervised by experts from both the theoretical and application areas. This will foster links between a theoretical hub and many application areas so that students emerge ‘speaking two languages’ – the theory of complexity science and the challenges it addresses.

The first students will begin their training in October 2007. The Centre has funding for four years and hopes to attract up to 60 students in that time, as well as provide funding for several new members of staff.

Further information

Prospective graduate students are encouraged to visit the website. Informal enquiries are also welcome at
Please contact Professor John Hogan for further information.
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