How did you find yourself at ITMO University?

I learned about ITMO by chance from a colleague of mine who also works in the field of complex systems. I googled it and read about the educational programs and research projects conducted at the University, and I liked it. For me, this series of lectures was an opportunity to meet local scientists and students and discuss possible collaborations. Apart from that, I see it as an opportunity to teach as many students as possible about complex systems.

How did you organize your course?

There were about 20 or 25 students enrolled in my course. The course was 15 hours long, so it was more of an introductory course in complex systems. First, I gave a lecture on complex systems in general. Then we discussed some theoretical aspects of complex systems including mathematical tools because, without this theoretical knowledge, students wouldn’t be able to move on to game theory and machine learning. But I also tried to take the students’ experience into account, as they were all from different fields, such as computer science, urban studies, high-performance computing, etc.

Lectures on Mathematical Models for Complex Systems by Marco Javarone
Lectures on Mathematical Models for Complex Systems by Marco Javarone

Even urban studies students attended your course. Is it useful for them?

Yes, very useful. For example, we had a lecture on how graphs and complex networks can be used in various topologies, and urban studies students can apply this statistical approach when studying urban systems.

What techniques do you use when working with such an interdisciplinary group of students?

From the very first lecture, I encouraged students to participate. And they did. They often asked me various questions on the topic and asked my opinion. We were constantly sharing ideas, so it was easier for them to perceive information.

You’ve mentioned that complex systems can be applied in urban studies. Are there some other fields in which they can be used?

Sure. Statistics and mathematical methods can be used in machine learning. That’s why it is so important that students first learn the basics of mathematics and learn how to apply this knowledge. Complex networks are useful when it comes to research in social media and bitcoin technologies, as they help to model such systems. I believe practice is the most important thing because when these students graduate, they will have to work.

In what fields of industry, in your opinion, can students learning complex systems work?

First, it is FinTech. Specialists in this field have to be well-trained in machine learning and data-science and have strong competencies in data analysis and construction of predictive models. They should also have a background in finances and be able to understand how markets work because markets are complex systems which can be modeled. Second, many students are employed by governments to construct predictive models and develop urban areas. Third, these specialists can then work on optimization of social networks.

In fact, there are many areas in which students learning complex systems can work, so I think that, first of all, they should learn how to use basic tools and collaborate with specialists from different fields. For example, data analysis skills can be applied in biology. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a biologist to work with this kind of data. You just have to know how to collaborate with biologists and analyze data.

In your opinion, what studies in the field of complex systems are the most relevant now?

It depends on the topic. There are many areas of research within complex systems. For example, one of them, Evolutionary Game Theory, allows us to study several complex phenomena, such as the emergence of cooperation in social systems.

So, it turns out that there are many areas in which students may choose to specialize.

Yes, there are many areas, and students can choose something they like. It is very important because this kind of work requires a great deal of patience.

What are your research interests?

There are many things that I find interesting. I like studying various interactions between the components of complex systems. Studies in the field of complex systems combine many interesting scientific approaches, and I really like working on interdisciplinary projects.

In layman's terms, how would you describe what a complex system is?

A complex system is a system composed of many components which interact with each other, and thus the behaviour of such a system cannot be defined by the behaviour of its components. For example, you cannot describe the behaviour of a crowd by describing the behaviour of only one person in it.