SmithGroup Lecture Series

SmithGroup, formerly Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls Associates, of Detroit is the architectural firm that designed the Beckman Institute. The firm was particularly proud of this project and presented a modest endowment to support a lecture series in their name. The gift was given in honor of the founding director of the Institute, Theodore L. Brown. Dr. James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and recipient of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, presented the inaugural lecture in the series.

2019 SmithGroup Lecture

Photo of Albert-László Barabási

Taming Complexity: Controlling Networks

Albert-László Barabási, holds appointments at the Center of Complex Networks Research, Northeastern University; Division of Network Medicine, Harvard University; and the Department of Network and Data Sciences at Central European University. He is the author of the newly released The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success (2018), Linked (2002), and Bursts (2010) and the textbook Network Science (Cambridge, 2017), and co-edited Network Medicine (Harvard, 2015).
Noon Friday, April 5, 2019
Beckman Institute Auditorium


The ultimate proof of our understanding of biological or technological systems is reflected in our ability to control them. While control theory offers mathematical tools to steer engineered and natural systems toward a desired state, we lack a framework to control complex self-organized systems. Here I will explore the controllability of an arbitrary complex network, identifying the set of driver nodes whose time-dependent control can guide the system’s entire dynamics. Virtually all technological and biological networks must be able to control their internal processes. Given that, issues related to control deeply shape the topology and the vulnerability of real systems. Consequently, unveiling the control principles of real networks, the goal of our research, forces us to address series of fundamental questions pertaining to our understanding of complex systems. Finally, I will discuss how control principles inform our ability to predict neurons involved in specific processes in the brain, offering an avenue to experimentally falsify and test the predictions of network control.

Previous SmithGroup Lectures

Sandra Tsing Loh - April 2018
Host of the syndicated daily radio science minute and NPR podcast “The Loh Down on Science” and adjunct associate professor in drama and science communication at University of California, Irvine.

L. Mahadevan - April 2017
England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, professor of organismic and evolutionary biology, professor of physics, Harvard University

Michael Posner - April 2016
professor emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of Oregon

Chad Mirkin - October 2014
George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry and Director, International Institute for Nanotechnology, Northwestern University

Victor Regnier - April 2013
Professor of architecture and gerontology at the University of Southern California

Jeff Hawkins – November 2010
Founder, Numenta, Inc.

Felice Frankel – September 2008
Senior Research Fellows, Harvard

Helen Neville – October 2007
Psychology/Neuroscience, Oregon

James Carey – April 2006
Entomology, Cal – Davis

Douglas Noll – October 2003
Biomedical Engineering, Michigan

Lawrence Rabiner – October 2001
Vice President AT&T Labs

George Whitesides – March 1999
Chemistry, Harvard

Norman Allinger – March 1995
Chemistry, Georgia

James Watson – October 1992 (inaugural speaker)
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

The SmithGroup Lecture Series is supported by: