Michael Szell

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About Michael

Michael Szell

Hi, I am Michael Szell, PhD student in Physics at the Section for Science of Complex Systems - formerly known as Complex Systems Research Group (COSY) - at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria. My advisor is Stefan Thurner.

I completed my master studies in technical mathematics (focus on computer science) at the Vienna University of Technology, with a thesis about avalanche simulation (a topic quite relevant in Austria! ;). On one hand I always liked "hardcore" (meta-)mathematical topics in set theory, logic, or graph theory. On the other hand I am fascinated by the most applied issues as can be encountered when working on complex systems. Today I have a particular interest in social network analysis and sociophysics, econophysics and behavioral economics, as well as evolutionary game theory.

Besides pursuing my master studies, I have co-developed a browser-based massive multiplayer online game since 2004 ( As of now the game has a worldwide user-base of over 300,000 players and is actively played by ~13,000 people. The main part of my PhD studies involve analyzing socio-economic behavior and (evolution of) social networks of players from this online game.

My hobbies include playing Badminton, Tennis, Squash, and the piano, programming, reading, and enjoying life in and around Vienna. I am fluent in German, English, as well as Hungarian due to my Hungarian ancestry.



What are your main interests? Feel free to include a "pie in the sky" big idea!

At the moment I am primarily interested in complex systems constituted by networked human agents, both from empirical and theoretical points of view. I find it highly fascinating to illuminate interdisciplinary parallels by employing the tools of statistical mechanics on e.g. social sciences. The idea of discovering universal laws in human societies feels as thrilling today as it must have been centuries ago when classical physicists discovered the laws of physics underlying inanimate matter.

What sort of expertise can you bring to the group?

  • Analysis of large-scale, time-evolving social networks
  • Data mining
  • PHP, which can be useful for certain problems

What do you hope to get out of the CSSS?

Broadening my knowledge in complex systems, interacting with other students and specialists of the field with whom stimulating discussions and collaborations may arise. Also, having a good time!

Do you have any possible projects in mind for the CSSS?

Mainly for fun, it could be interesting to map the networks of acquaintanceships/friendships/enmities/phone calls/collaborations/romantic affairs/etc. between the participants in the course of their participation (and afterwards?), to create a set of evolving small-scale social networks with multiple relation types. Different methods of data gathering could be used (questionnaire, interview, online form,..?); their strengths and weaknesses could be compared/discussed. A network analysis could be performed on these networks, focusing on their co-evolution.