October 30, 2017
Topic: Campus News
The "Small World Effect," familiar to many as "Six Degrees of Separation," posits that a person can be linked to anyone else through a small number of individuals.
Mark Newman will examine the effects of this theory in his upcoming Distinguished University Professor lecture, "Networks of People, Places, and Information and What Physics Can Say about Them."
In his talk, Newman will introduce the study of networks, its history, and the advances of the last two decades as insights on networks from diverse fields have shed light on such issues as epidemiology, online dating, animal behavior, web search and the very structure of human society.
A Distinguished University Professorship is the highest professorial honor bestowed on U-M faculty. Newman was named in 2015 as the Anatol Rapoport Distinguished University Professor of Physics.
The talk will take place at 4 p.m. Thursday in Rackham Amphitheatre. The lecture and the reception that follows are free and open to the public.
Newman also is professor of physics, and complex systems in LSA. His research includes work on mathematical models of network structure, computer algorithms for analyzing network data, and applications of network theory to a wide variety of specific problems, from the spread of disease among human populations to the spread of viruses among computer networks.
For Newman, the critical feature of this work is its interdisciplinary nature, and the ways that strategies and breakthroughs from one field can illuminate the work in another.
"People can develop techniques in one area and then find out it works in another area. Bringing it all together as a field of the study of networks has substantial benefits over being a person who studies one kind of network," he said.
Newman named his professorship for one of the pioneers in complex systems theory, Anatol Rapoport, a mathematician who worked at U-M from the 1950s to the 1970s. Newman honors Rapoport for his broad contributions to the field and for the role he played in the early quantitative study of networks.
Newman gives credit to the university for its support of collaboration and interdisciplinary work.
"A large part of my success in research has been due to being at this place — so it's a tremendous honor, but it's also a reflection on Michigan and the great atmosphere here," he said.
In addition to the Distinguished University Professorship, Neman has been honored as a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society, and he has been a Simon's Foundation Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow.
He won the 2014 Lagrange Prize, the largest international prize for research on complex systems. Newman is the author of more than 150 scientific publications and seven books, including "Networks," an introduction to the field of network theory, and "The Atlas of the Real World," a book on cartography.