Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Professor Raissa D’Souza Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society

DAVIS, Calif.; October 14, 2016–The American Physical Society (APS) has elected Raissa D’Souza to its Class of 2016 Fellows. D’Souza is a professor with dual appointments in the UC Davis Departments of Computer Science and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. APS fellowship is a distinct honor that shows recognition by one’s professional peers with less than one percent of the more than 51,000 APS members elected Fellows each year.

D’Souza’s research focuses on mathematical models of self-organization, phase transitions and the structure and function of networked systems. Her publications span the fields of statistical physics, applied math and theoretical computer science.

Raissa D’Souza is a professor in the UC Davis Departments of Computer Science and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Raissa D’Souza is a professor in the UC Davis Departments of Computer Science and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

APS cited D’Souza’s election to the Fellows program, “for seminal contributions to the statistical physics of complex systems, including self-organization in jamming phenomena and cascades, abrupt percolation transitions, and interdependence in network systems.”

D’Souza says she and collaborators started a new direction of research in 2009, which they called “explosive percolation.” It puts a new twist on traditional mathematical models of percolation that describe the onset of large-scale connectivity in networks.

In 2015, D’Souza and Jan Nagler, of the Department of Computational Physics for Engineering Materials, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland published a review article of the field entitled “Anomalous Critical and Supercritical Phenomena in Explosive Percolation,” which was featured as the cover article of Nature Physics. Wired magazine featured D’Souza’s research and described the discovery as follows, “Instead of arising from a slow, steady continuous march toward greater and greater connectivity, connections emerge globally all at once throughout the system in a kind of explosion—hence the moniker ‘explosive percolation.’”

The application of this study of network connectivity could result in new ways of modeling real-world systems from social networks to nanotubes.

In July 2013, a team headed by D’Souza received a U.S. Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) Award. The $6.25 million, five-year project — titled “Predicting and Controlling Systems of Interdependent Networks: Exploiting Interdependence for Control” — focuses on the control of collective phenomena in complex systems. As project PI, D’Souza is collaborating with colleagues from UC Davis, Caltech, Rice University, and the University of Washington.

Most recently, D’Souza has secured two additional faculty positions in her area of research, Network Science and Complex Systems, by winning funding for her 2016 UC Davis Hiring Investment Program (HIP) proposal. This effort will also interface with HIP investments in Data Sciences and Computational Neuroscience.

D’Souza earned her Ph.D. in statistical physics at MIT in 1999, and then completed postdoc work at both Bell Labs and the Microsoft Research Theory Group. She joined the UC Davis College of Engineering as an assistant professor in 2005 and became full professor in July 2014. She is a member of the UC Davis Complexity Sciences Center and is currently president of the Network Science Society. Since 2007, D’Souza also has served as an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute.

According to the American Physical Society website, the criterion for election to APS Fellowship is, “exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise; e.g., outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education.” APS represents over 51,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and internationally.

–By Kelley Weiss


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