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About NICO

Solving practical problems through the use of complexity science.

About NICO

The Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO) was founded in 2004 with the goals of uncovering fundamental principles that govern complex systems in science, technology, and human behavior and applying these principles to solve societally relevant problems through the analysis, design, and control of complex systems.

Mission Statement

NICO's mission is to serve as a hub and a facilitator for path-breaking research in complexity and data science that transcends the boundaries of established disciplines.

Our focus is the theory of complex systems, network science, and data science and their application in a wide variety of domains, including business, education, engineering, law, medicine, natural science, and social science. The goal is to solve important practical problems through the use of complexity science and to actively disseminate the results through scientific publications, education, and corporate development.


NICO faculty are distinguished researchers from several schools at Northwestern University, including the Kellogg School of Management, the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Communication, the School of Education and Social Policy, and the Feinberg School of Medicine.

Faculty core competencies include:

Meet our faculty

Complex Systems

Based on the belief that breakthroughs in complex systems require collaboration across boundaries of traditional domains, NICO brings together faculty in business, engineering, education, medicine, natural sciences, and social sciences. Cross-disciplinary collaborations break down barriers due to disciplinary knowledge silos and domain-specific terminology, accelerating the development of the new science of complex systems.

Networks of neurons, social networks, ecosystems, the US power grid, the world wide web, and insect and robot swarms are all examples of complex systems. These systems consist of a large number of agents that interact with each other and their environment. A typical characteristic of complex systems is an emergent organization without centralized control.

Read a position statement written by NICO co-founder Julio Ottino for Nature.

Research & Education

To accelerate progress in complex systems, NICO engages in a variety of education and research activities:

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