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Dirk Brockmann (born September 2, 1969, in Braunschweig, Germany) is a theoretical physicist working at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he is Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Sciences & Applied Mathematics. He is known for his contributions to computational epidemiology, his research on anomalous diffusion, and his studies on human mobility and transportation networks. Brockmann’s current research focuses on the structure and dynamics of complex biological and physical systems, e.g., the spreading of epidemics, nonlinear phenomena, complex networks and systems biology.
Career and Research
Dirk Brockmann studied physics and mathematics at Duke University and the University of Göttingen, Germany where he received his PhD in 2003. From 1996-2008 he worked at the Max-Planck-Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, Germany on a number of topics such as computational neuroscience, human saccadic eye-movements, anomalous and fractional diffusion, intra-cellular transport, computational epidemiology and human mobility networks. In 2007 Brockmann joined the faculty at Northwestern University and is also a member of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems.
The Scaling Laws of Human Travel
Brockmann and his colleague Lars Hufnagel earned worldwide recognition for a study in which they investigated the geographic circulation of dollar bills in the United States. Their goal was to measure and quantify human mobility in order to improve models for the spread of epidemics. Based on the idea that humans transport money as they travel, Brockmann and Hufnagel analysed data collected at the online bill-tracking website www.wheresgeorge.com. Studying the movements of over one million single dollar bills, they discovered universal scaling laws in human mobility and developed a theory for the geographic circulation of money based on fractional diffusion equations.
Fractional Diffusion and Epidemics
Prior to his research on human mobility, Brockmann contributed to the field of anomalous diffusion. He developed a novel framework for the description of Lévy Flights in heterogeneous environments. Introducing these concepts into the modelling of the spatial dynamics of epidemics Brockmann coined the term Lévydemics in a talk he gave during the workshop Physics of Life in Krogerup, Denmark in 2005.
- Brockmann and Geisel. Particle dispersion on rapidly folding random heteropolymers. Phys Rev Lett (2003) vol. 91 pp. 048303
- Hufnagel et al. Forecast and control of epidemics in a globalized world. P Natl Acad Sci USA (2004) vol. 101 pp. 15124-15129
- Brockmann and Theis. Money Circulation, Trackable Items, and the Emergence of Universal Human Mobility Patterns. IEEE Pervas. Comput. (2008) vol. 7 pp. 28-35
- Brockmann et al. The scaling laws of human travel. Nature (2006) 439 pp. 462-465
- Money-Circulation Science, The New York Times Magazine - The 6th Annual Year in Ideas, 12-10-2006
- Brockmann and Geisel. Lévy flights in inhomogeneous media. Phys Rev Lett (2003) vol. 90 pp. 170601
- Brockmann and Hufnagel. Front propagation in reaction-superdiffusion dynamics: Taming Levy flights with fluctuations. Phys Rev Lett (2007) vol. 98 pp. 178301
- Brockmann's Lecture at the Ideafestival 2007
- Voice of America Radio Interview with Dirk Brockmann