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Dirk Brockmann Receives Young Scientist Award

Dirk Brockmann, associate professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, will receive the Young Scientist Award for Socio- and Econophysics from the Physics of Socio-Economic Systems Division of the German Physical Society.

The Young Scientist Award seeks to promote the work of young researchers and honors exceptional original contributions that use methods from physics to gain a better understanding of socioeconomic problems. It has an endowment of EUR 5,000 and is intended for young scientists not older than 40. Brockmann is the ninth awardee of the prize.

Brockmann's research on complex systems involves everything from transportation networks to infectious diseases. He has developed computational models, new analytic and numerical techniques, and large-scale quantitative and predictive computer simulations to study various aspects of the dynamics of epidemics.

For example, he has used data from WheresGeorge .com — a site where users enter the serial numbers from their dollar bills in order to track their travels — to find out the patterns and regularities that govern human mobility. From that information, Brockmann was able to reconstruct a comprehensive multi-scale human mobility network for the United States that includes small scale daily commuting traffic, intermediate traffic, and long distance travel by air.

Based on this mobility network, Brockmann has modeled how diseases spread throughout the country, and he and his research group have also created a map of large scale community boundaries in the United States, different from those defined by administrative state-line boundaries. These effective maps show that some states, like Missouri or Pennsylvania, are essentially cut in half. Other boundaries coincide with geographic features, such as the Appalachian mountains.

Brockmann also develops models for human-mediated bioinvasion processes on human transportation networks in order to quantify the susceptibility of various regions to bioinvasion threats and in order to develop more efficient containment strategies. Last but not least, Brockmann has performed research in complex dynamics of biological systems and in anomalous diffusion and fractional transport.

He will receive the award during the spring meeting of the German Physical Society in March.