Adilson E. Motter

  Charles Morrison Professor of Physics and


  Website: The Motter Group: Physics of Complex

  Systems and Networks





Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics, State University of Campinas, Brazil, 2002

B.S. in Physics, State University of Campinas, Brazil, 1996


Research Interests

The Motter Group studies studies how information, influences, and perturbations propagate through complex networks and how they shape the large-scale behavior of systems as diverse as biochemical, physical, and ecological networks. This research touches upon issues underlying the root causes of spontaneous synchronization, behavioral cascades, and other collective phenomena observed in many natural and man-made systems. In particular, the group has helped develop the concept of synthetic rescue in network biology, which is a collective gene interaction effect that can compensate for genetic and epigenetic failures in living cells. Current research includes optimization and control of network dynamics for the recovery of lost cellular function, the development of smart grids, the design of new materials, and the stabilization of complex systems.

This research is inherently interdisciplinary and benefits from Prof. Motter's affiliations with other programs, such as the Department of Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics (ESAM), Department of Linguistics, Molecular Biophysics Program, Northwestern University Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (NU PSOC), Initiative on Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN),  Institute for Sustainable Practices (NiSP), Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA), and Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO).

Selected Publications

A.E. Motter, S.A. Myers, M. Anghel, and T. Nishikawa, "Spontaneous synchrony in power-grid networks," Nature Physics 9, 191 (2013).

J. Sun and A.E. Motter, "Controllability transition and nonlocality in network control," Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 208701 (2013).

Y. Yang, J. Wang, and A.E. Motter," Network observability transitions," Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 258701 (2012).

Z.G. Nicolaou and A.E. Motter, "Mechanical metamaterials with negative compressibility transitions," Nature Materials 11, 608 (2012).

B. Ravoori, A.B. Cohen, J. Sun, A.E. Motter, T.E. Murphy, and R. Roy, "Robustness of optimal synchronization in real networks," Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 034102 (2011).

S. Sahasrabudhe and A.E. Motter, "Rescuing ecosystems from extinction cascades through compensatory perturbations," Nature Communications 2:170 doi:10.1038/ncomms1163 (2011).

T. Nishikawa and A.E. Motter,Network synchronization landscape reveals compensatory structures, quantization, and the positive effect of negative interactions, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107, 10342 (2010).

A.E. Motter,Improved network performance via antagonism: From synthetic rescues to multi-drug combinations, BioEssays 32, 236 (2010).

A.E. Motter, Spontaneous synchrony breaking, Nature Physics 6, 164 (2010).

J. Andreasen, H. Cao, J. Wiersig, and A.E. Motter,Marginally unstable periodic orbits in semiclassical mushroom billiards, Physical Review Letters 103, 154101 (2009).

Selected News


Contact us at or 847-467-2834

Images from the Motter group

Metabolic network activity (PLoS Comp. Biol. 2008)

Mushroom-shaped microlaser (Phys. Rev. Lett. 2009)

Network synchronization landscape (Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 2010)

July 23, 2015