This is the Newsletter of the Centre for Data Science and Systems Complexity (DSSC) at the University of Groningen. The DSSC Newsletter is issued evey two months.

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Centre for Data Science and Systems Complexity (DSSC), University of Groningen

DSSC Newsletter


Outcome of the DSSC call for applications
DSSC research profiles
Master's track in data and complexity science at JBI
Prof. Nicolai Petkov, project SMARTBREED
Prof. Alexandru Telea, project High Performing Airport Operations
Prof. Ernst Wit, project European Cooperation for Statistic of Network Data Science
Prof. Alexandru Telea, talk "Making Sense of Software Big Data with Visual Analytics" at eScience Symposium

Horizon 2020

The World Congress on Computational Intelligence 2016


Outcome of the DSSC call for applications
Following a Faculty-wide call for applications, the DSSC awarded funding to 4 research projects that demonstrated their relevance to the Centre’s research agenda:

  • COmplex DYnamical networks: From data to ConnEctivity Structure

Researchers: Dr. Pietro Tesi (Engineering and Technology Institute Groningen - ENTEG); Prof. Dr. Kanat Camlibel (Johann Bernoulli Institute - JBI)

  • [VF]ast Data

Researchers: Dr. Michael Wilkinson (JBI); Prof. Dr. Alexander Lazovik (JBI); Dr. Johan Messchendorp (Centre for Advanced Radiation Technology - KVI); Prof. Dr. Leon Koopmans (Kapteyn Astronomical Institute - Kapteyn); Prof. Dr. Scott Trager (Kapteyn)

  • Clinical Big Data for multifactorial diseases: from molecular profiles to precision medicine
Researchers: Prof. Dr. Peter Horvatovich (Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy - GRIP); Prof. Dr. Rainer Bischoff (GRIP); Prof. Dr. Ernst Wit (JBI); Dr. Bart Verheij (ALICE); Dr. Victor Guryev (University Medical Centre Groningen – UMCG); Prof. Dr. Kathrin Thedieck (UMCG); Dr. Corry-Anke Brandsma (UMCG); Prof. Dr. Wim Timens (UMCG); Dirkje Postma (UMCG); Maarten van den Berge (UMCG); Prof. Dr. Gerald Koppelman (UMCG); Dr. Gyorgy Halmos (UMCG); Prof. Dr. Eelko Hak (GRIP)
  • Uncovering the information processing underlying the interactions between brain areas
Researchers: Marieke van Vugt (Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering - ALICE); Ming Cao (ENTEG); Mircea Lungu (JBI); Jelmer Borst (ALICE)

The financial support from the DSSC will be used for the recruitment of PhD students who will constitute the first cohort of the DSSC Doctoral Programme. 
We would like to thank all applicants for their exciting proposals and to congratulate the winners!

DSSC research profiles
The DSSC reunites a group of innovative researchers whose interests will be featured in every issue of the DSSC Newsletter. In this issue, 2 researchers at ALICE and JBI introduce their projects.

Dr. Marieke van Vugt Photo Marieke van Vugt
Decision making is an important part of what we do as humans. But what drives our decisions? And how can we improve at making them? I combine behavioral experiments, neuroscience, and computational modeling to examine these questions. Let me describe my three main projects.

In a project funded by a Marie Curie grant, we examined how the process of evidence accumulation differs between decisions based on perceptual information (e.g., the identity of two faces on the screen) and memory-based decisions (e.g., is a face on the screen the same as one you hold in mind?).

This evidence accumulation is modeled by a random walk process, whose parameters allow us to functionally interpret the effect of factors such as reward and stimulus type on decisions. Using machine learning approaches, we are looking at how brain waves in the 4—9 Hz theta band track both perceptual and memory decisions, and in what brain areas this occurs. Most labs do this type of research using scalp EEG, which is recorded with external electrodes on the head. However, we additionally use intracranial EEG recorded from electrodes implanted inside the brains of epileptic patients.

In a second line of research, we use computational models to examine the mechanisms that are involved in becoming distracted, as well as those involved in dealing with distraction in the context of mindfulness practices. Pioneering the use of computational modeling to study mindfulness, we have shown that mindfulness training modifies specific model parameters in random walk models of decision making. On the other hand, we have shown that computational models of distraction based on competition between different goals can accurately describe how people become distracted during boring cognitive tasks. 

In a third, much more exploratory project, we are examining how debate training in Tibetan monks affects cognitive processes such as planning and logical reasoning. We also use state-of-the-art EEG hyperscanning to track synchronization between the brains of the two debaters. Together, understanding these distraction and decision processes better can have applications in both education and health care settings, in particular in the context of Healthy Ageing.

Dr. Alef SterkPhoto Alef Sterk
My general research area is the mathematical theory of dynamical systems. The aim is to understand the long-term behaviour of nonlinear deterministic systems and qualitative changes in dynamics upon variation of system parameters. The transition from orderly to complex, chaotic dynamics is particularly important. Rather than studying individual evolutions, the goal is to obtain a global and qualitative overview of the dynamics by studying the geometric organisation of the product of state and parameter spaces.
I am interested in both theory and applications, which often go hand in hand. Satisfactory explanations for observed behaviour in concrete systems require a good mathematical knowledge, and, conversely, numerical studies of concrete systems lead to new mathematical results in the form of conjectures and theorems. Much of my research focuses on climate models. Already for my PhD thesis I studied the low-frequency dynamics of models for the ocean and atmosphere. A new trend within dynamical systems is the study of so-called extreme events. Examples of such events are high wind speeds and temperature records. Both the predictability and the statistics of these events are of great importance. Since my postdoc at the University of Exeter I am active in this area and I collaborate with both mathematicians and climate scientists.
In my research I often use numerical techniques for integrating differential equations and continuation of steady states or periodic solutions. In addition, Lyapunov exponents are very useful to distinguish between (quasi)-periodic and chaotic dynamics and to quantify predictability. Statistical properties of a dynamical system can be studied in terms of invariant measures. In most applications, however, analytical results are not always within reach. Therefore, I often write tailored software to implement numerical tools using a variety of programming languages. For numerical integrations I often use the C programming language. For statistical analyses I often write scripts in R. In addition, I write batch scripts in Python to run computations and process the results.
Most of the numerical work I have done so far concerns models up to 100 degrees of freedom. Such toy models are useful to test new methodologies, but still have physical relevance. Within DSSC I am looking for collaborators to further develop methodology for large-scale dynamical systems. On the one hand this entails the development of novel algorithms for large scale computing. On the other hand this requires clever model reduction strategies. Applications need not necessarily be limited to climate models. Indeed, mathematics is context-independent, and all the methodology can be applied to models from various disciplines.

Master's track in data and complexity science at JBI
A Master’s Track in Data Science and Systems Complexity will be launched in Groningen in September 2016 as part of the Master’s Programme in Computer Science at the JBI. Other Institutes at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, i.e. Kapteyn Institute and ENTEG, have also expressed the intention of including tracks in data and complexity science in their Master’s Programmes.


  • The Technology Foundation STW has awarded € 230.000 to the SMARTBREED project of Prof. Nicolai Petkov and Dr. G. Azzopardi from the JBI research group Intelligent Systems. The grant is awarded within the Partnership Programme Breed4Food that wishes to develop more sustainable and animal friendly breeding. The SMARTBREED project is a collaboration with the Animal Sciences department of the Wageningen University. It will apply big data and advanced machine learning on the genetic data of millions of animals gathered by the four breeding improvement companies involved with STW partnership programme.
  • Prof. Alexandru Telea is part of a research team that was awarded the Horizon 2020 Joint Undertaking Grant SESAR -06-2015 – High Performing Airport Operations. Their project focuses on big data visual analytics for the construction of the next-generation control towers for aircraft EU project. The project brought € 100.000 to RUG for the support of one 2-year post-doc position.
  • The “European Cooperation for Statistic of Network Data Science,” coordinated by Prof. Ernst Wit (JBI), has been funded by EU COST, the longest-running European framework supporting trans-national cooperation among researchers, engineers and scholars across Europe. The grant sponsors meetings and collaborations between statistics groups and industrial partners who focus on the data science behind statistical networks in the spread of infectious diseases, financial risk and global finance, genetic disease and pharmacology, traffic.

Horizon 2020
For more information, please click on the calls:

LCE-01-2016-2017: Next generation innovative technologies enabling smart grids, storage and energy system integration with increasing share of renewables: distribution network.
Deadline: 16 February.
SC1-PM-13–2016: PPI for deployment and scaling up of ICT solutions for active and healthy ageing
Deadline: 16 February.
SC1-PM-18–2016: Big Data supporting Public Health policies
Deadline: 16 February.
INFRAIA-02-2017: Integrating activities for starting communities
Deadline: 30 March.
INFRAIA-01-2016-2017: Integrating activities for advanced communities
Deadline: 30 March.
EINFRA-11-2016: Support to the next implementation phase of Pan-European High Performance Computing infrastructure and services (PRACE)
Deadline: 30 March.
INFRASUPP-03-2016: Support to policies and international cooperation for e-infrastructures
Deadline: 30 March.

The World Congress on Computational Intelligence 2016
The WCCI has extended the deadline for the submission of papers until January 31. For more information about the sessions and the conditions for submission, please visit


DSSC Thematic Seminar: Machine Learning

1 March 2016, 16.00-18.00, Room 5161.0253 (Bernoulliborg)

Guest speaker:
Prof. Dr. Isabelle Guyon (Université Paris-Saclay; ChaLearn, Berkeley),
"Network Reconstruction: the Contribution of Challenges in Machine Learning"

DSSC speaker:
Prof. Dr. Michael Biehl (JBI)

The Groningen Spring School on Cognitive Modeling

April 4-8, 2016, University of Groningen

The cognitive modeling group at ALICE is organizing the Groningen Spring School on Cognitive Modeling that will cover four different modeling paradigms: ACT-R, Nengo, PRIMs, and Accumulator models. It thereby offers a unique opportunity to learn the relative strengths and weaknesses of these approaches. Each day will consist of four theory lectures, one on each paradigm. Each modeling paradigm also includes hands-on assignments.


Seminar Machine Learning and Health

Amsterdam Data Science Seminar, 12 February 2016, 15.00-17.30, Science Park 904, room A1. 04

DISC PhD winter course 2016: Power Systems Control - from Circuits to Economics

17 - 19 February 19, 2016, University of Groningen

Florian Dörfler is professor at the Automatic Control Laboratory of the ETH Zürich.
Andrej Jokic is professor at the Control Systems Group of the University of Zagreb.
Local organizer: Prof. Arjan van der Schaft

EuroVis 2016

6-10 June 2016, University of Groningen

EuroVis 2016 is the 18th annual visualization gathering organized by the Eurographics Working Group on Data Visualization and supported by the IEEE Visualization and Graphics Technical Committee (IEEE VGTC). EuroVis has been a Eurographics and IEEE co-supported international visualization symposium held in Europe annually since 1999. EuroVis has been a conference since 2012.
Copyright © 2016 DSSC, All rights reserved.

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