363-0541-02L  Systems Dynamics and Complexity (Additional Cases)

SemesterAutumn Semester 2022
LecturersG. Casiraghi
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish
CommentOnly for Mechanical Engineering BSc.


363-0541-02 USystems Dynamics and Complexity (Additional Cases)2s hrsG. Casiraghi

Catalogue data

AbstractThis module is an addition to the course Systems Dynamics and Complexity. It offers additional study cases to MAVT Bachelor students who enroll in the main course.
ObjectiveMAVT Bachelor students learn how to develop and analyze more sophisticated systems dynamics models from different areas, e.g. from biology (population dynamics, cooperation), management (inventory modeling, technology adoption and economics (supply and demand, investment and consumption), to name but a few. The goal is to apply analytical and numeric techniques to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics of complex systems.
Content1. Modelling path dependence and formation of standards
- Why do clocks go clockwise? Why do people in most nations drive on the right? Why do nearly all computer keyboards have the QWERTY layout, even though it is more inefficient compared to DVORAK? It turns out that many real-world processes are path depended, i.e. small random events early in their history determine the ultimate end state, even when all end states are equally likely at the beginning. Students will learn how to model such processes, to understand the feedback mechanisms that lead to path dependence. As a case in point, we will study the 'war' between the Betamax and the VHS standards.

2. Optimal migration as promoter of cooperation
- Mechanisms to promote cooperative behaviour is a vibrant research topic in various fields - economics, evolutionary biology and management science to name but a few. Students will be introduced to one such mechanism - migration. They will develop and analyse a macroscopic model to study how the rate of migration affects the long-term cooperation rate in a population.

3. Information transfer
- Information flow in a social system (e.g. about the location of resources or appearance of a competitor) is an important component of group living. For example, it is well known that ants can achieve remarkable feats in finding an optimal route to a food patch through pheromone trails. The goal of this study case is to model information transfer in such systems by investigating the dynamics of trail formation in ants. The students will learn that the complexity in navigating to a food source may nevertheless be explained as a simple dynamical system with one control parameter only.

4. Decisions in social societies
- In many situations individuals have to decide between two or more options. Such decisions often have a profound impact on the system as a whole, especially regarding group cohesion. Group cohesion is preferred, as individuals can benefit from living in groups, yet it may not be the underlying reason behind individual choices. In this case, students will develop and extend a macroscopic model of an animal social system faced with a decision to choose a new home, and identify the conditions which promote group cohesion versus group splitting.

5. Antigenic variation of HIV
- One of the characteristic traits of HIV is that a host can be a carrier and a transmitter of the virus without experiencing symptoms for up to 10 years. This case is concerned with finding the mechanism of HIV disease progression. The students will develop a general population-based model for the interaction of an infectious agent with the host immune system. The model is applicable to a variety of infectious agents, ranging from acute lethal infections to chronic illness. Through analysing and simulating the model, the students will understand how the HIV virus interacts with the host and how the mutation rate of the virus is ultimately responsible for this long asymptomatic period.

6. Compartmental models in epidemiology
- Many diffusive processes in social systems, such as epidemics, can be understood as a result of the interaction between a few groups (compartments) of individuals. The most common example is to divide a population into those who are susceptible (S) to a disease, those who are infected (I), and those who have recovered (R) and are immune, and to model their interactions. These so called SIR models find wide application in studying non-biological diffusive processes, e.g. spread of technological innovations, fads , internet memes etc. In this study case, students will become familiar with the basic components of an SIR model and the conditions under which a disease can cause the outbreak of an epidemic. Students will extend the basic model to investigate more realistic scenarios relevant to e.g. different vaccination strategies.
Lecture notesWill be provided

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits1 credit
ExaminersG. Casiraghi
Typegraded semester performance
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionRepetition only possible after re-enrolling for the course unit.

Learning materials

No public learning materials available.
Only public learning materials are listed.


No information on groups available.


PriorityRegistration for the course unit is only possible for the primary target group
Primary target groupMechanical Engineering BSc (152000)
Mechanical Engineering MSc (162000)

Offered in

Management, Technology and Economics (General Courses)General CoursesZInformation
Mechanical Engineering BachelorManagement, Technology and EconomicsW+Information