A hybrid-systems approach to uncover complex networks behaviour

Primary supervisor

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Other projects with the same supervisor


  • Competition Funded Project (European/UK Students Only)
This research project is one of a number of projects at this institution. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding. The funding is available to citizens of a number of European countries (including the UK). In most cases this will include all EU nationals. However full funding may not be available to all applicants and you should read the full department and project details for further information.

Project description

A synchronised school of fish swimming in the sea; a network of computer systems; the evolution of a flock of birds; the controlled motion of swarm satellites; the cooperation of several robotic systems to accomplish a common goal; social networks; water or electrical power distribution systems: these are examples of complex networks and collective behaviour. That is, a group of systems (normally, a big number of them) interconnected in a non-trivial and non-regular way. The key aspect of these networks is the complex nature of their interconnection topology, which defines the behaviour of the overall structure and entails the onset of complex dynamical phenomena not present in the individual systems.

Two key ideas are pivotal to propose a model for these systems: 1) individual elements following elementary behavioural rules can produce complex behavioural patterns, and 2) in many cases, individual elements achieve a global goal with minimal communication with other elements in the network, and without having a complete picture of the overall structure. This type of behaviour implies different discrete transitions and the interaction of different types of dynamics (discrete and continuous). Consequently, the hybrid-systems framework - characterised by the coupling of continuous-type and discrete-event dynamics - seems to be very adequate to improve the existing models of complex networks and to give answers to many questions concerning the stability of the network and its structure.The goal of this PhD project is to formulate the evolution and dynamical behaviour of complex networks within the hybrid-systems framework. The ultimate goal is to design robust and resilient systems, that is, systems capable of preserving stability and recovering from faults. The control or decision-making techniques to explore fall into distributed, cooperative and networked control techniques. This research covers multiple emerging applications from robotic systems to transportation and distribution networks, and from high-confidence healthcare to national security.

Person specification

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Applicants will be required to evidence the following skills and qualifications.

  • This project requires mathematical engagement and ability substantially greater than for a typical Computer Science PhD. Give evidence for appropriate competence, as relevant to the project description.
  • You must be capable of performing at a very high level.
  • You must have a self-driven interest in uncovering and solving unknown problems and be able to work hard and creatively without constant supervision.


Applicants will be required to evidence the following skills and qualifications.

  • You will possess determination (which is often more important than qualifications) although you'll need a good amount of both.
  • You will have good time management.


Applicants will be required to address the following.

  • Discuss your final year Undergraduate project work - and if appropriate your MSc project work.
  • How well does your previous study prepare you for undertaking Postgraduate Research?
  • Comment on your transcript/predicted degree marks, outlining both strong and weak points.
  • Why do you believe you are suitable for doing Postgraduate Research?
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