Albert-László Barabási

The native form of this personal name is Barabási Albert László. This article uses the Western name order.
Albert-László Barabási

Barabási at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions in 2012
Born Barabási Albert László
(1967-03-30) March 30, 1967
Cârța, Harghita, Romania
Residence Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Citizenship Romanian
Alma mater University of Bucharest (BS)
Eötvös Loránd University(MS)
Boston University (PhD)
Occupation Physicist
Known for Research of network theory
the concept of scale-free networks
Proposal of Barabási–Albert model

Albert-László Barabási (born March 30, 1967) is a Romanian-born Hungarian-American physicist, best known for his work in the research of network theory.

He is the former Emil T. Hofmann Professor at the University of Notre Dame and current Distinguished Professor and Director of Northeastern University's Center for Complex Network Research (CCNR) associate member of the Center of Cancer Systems Biology (CCSB) at the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard University, and professor at the Center for Network Science[1] at Central European University.

He introduced in 1999 the concept of scale-free networks and proposed the Barabási–Albert model to explain their widespread emergence in natural, technological and social systems, from the cellular telephone to the World Wide Web or online communities.

Birth and education

Barabási was born to an ethnic Hungarian family in Cârța, Harghita County, Romania. His father, László Barabási, was a historian, museum director and writer, while his mother, Katalin Keresztes, taught literature, and later became director of a children's theater.[2] He attended a high school specializing in science and mathematics; in the tenth grade, he won a local physics olympiad. Between 1986 and 1989, he studied physics and engineering at the University of Bucharest; during that time, he began doing research on chaos theory, publishing three papers.[2]

In 1989, Barabási emigrated to Hungary, together with his father. In 1991, he received a master's degree at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, under Tamás Vicsek, before enrolling in the Physics program at Boston University, where he earned a PhD in 1994, under the direction of H. Eugene Stanley.[3]

Academic career

After a one-year postdoc at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Barabási joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame in 1995. In 2000, at the age of 32, he was named the Emil T. Hofman Professor of Physics, becoming the youngest endowed professor. In 2004 he founded the Center for Complex Network Research.

In 2005–06 he was a Visiting Professor at Harvard University. In Fall, 2007, Barabási left Notre Dame to become the Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Network Science at Northeastern University and to take up an appointment in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

As of 2008, Barabási holds Hungarian, Romanian and U.S. citizenship.[4]

Research and achievements

Barabási has been a major contributor to the development of network science and the statistical physics of complex systems. His biggest role has been the discovery of the scale-free network concept. He reported the scale-free nature of the WWW in 1999 and the same year, in a Science paper with Réka Albert, he proposed the Barabási–Albert model, predicting that growth and preferential attachment are jointly responsible for the emergence of the scale-free property in real networks. According to the review of one of Barabási's books, preferential attachment can be described as follows:

"Barabási has found that the websites that form the network (of the WWW) have certain mathematical properties. The conditions for these properties to occur are threefold. The first is that the network has to be expanding, growing. This precondition of growth is very important as the idea of emergence comes with it. It is constantly evolving and adapting. That condition exists markedly with the world wide web. The second is the condition of preferential attachment, that is, nodes (websites) will wish to link themselves to hubs (websites) with the most connections. The third condition is what is termed competitive fitness which in network terms means its rate of attraction."[5]

He subsequently showed that the scale-free property emerges in biological systems, namely in metabolic networks and protein–protein interaction networks. In a 2001 paper with Réka Albert and Hawoong Jeong he demonstrated the Achilles' heel property of scale-free networks, showing that such networks are robust to random failures but fragile to attacks. This work is covered in his bestseller general audience book, Linked.

Barabási's contributions to network biology and network medicine include introducing the concept of diseasome, or disease network, showing how diseases link to each other through shared genes and pioneered the use of large patient data to explore disease comorbidity, linking it to molecular network data.

His work on human dynamics resulted in the discovery of the fat tailed nature of the inter event times in human activity patterns, and proposed the Barabási model[6] that showed that a queuing model was capable of explaining the bursty nature of human activity. This topic is covered by his book Bursts.

His work on network control and observability brought the tools of control theory to network science. It asked how to identify the nodes from which one can control a complex network, just like a car is controlled through three control points, the steering wheel, gas pedal and the brake. By establishing an exact mapping between the dynamical control problem and matching theory, he developed tools to identify the system's control nodes. The same mapping allowed the determination of observers, nodes whose state allows one to reconstruct the state of the full system.


Barabási is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. In 2005, he was awarded the FEBS Anniversary Prize for Systems Biology and in 2006 he was awarded the John von Neumann Medal by the John von Neumann Computer Society from Hungary, for outstanding achievements in computer-related science and technology.[7]

In 2004, he was elected as an external member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In 2007, he was inducted into the Academia Europaea.[8]

In 2008 he received the 2008 C&C Prize, Japan "for stimulating innovative research on networks and discovering that the scale-free property is a common feature of various real-world complex networks"[9] and the Cozzarelli Prize, National Academies of Sciences (USA)[10]

The Lagrange Prize-Crt Foundation was awarded to Barabási in June 2011, and in November 2011 he was awarded Honorary degree Doctor Honoris Causa by Technical University of Madrid.[11]

Selected publications


  1. Profile, Central European University website; accessed January 10, 2016.
  2. 1 2 Dale Keiger, "Looking for the next big thing", Notre Dame Magazine, vol. 36 (Spring 2007), no. 1, 49–53 Archived May 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "H. Eugene Stanley: Ph.D. Theses Supervised". Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  4. "Albert-László Barabási CV" (PDF). Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  5. Profile,; accessed 10 January 2016.
  6. A.-L. Barabási (2005). "The origin of bursts and heavy tails in human dynamics". Nature. 435 (7039): 207–11. arXiv:cond-mat/0505371Freely accessible. Bibcode:2005Natur.435..207B. doi:10.1038/nature03459. PMID 15889093.
  7. "Barabasi co edits new book and is awarded computing medal". Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  8. "Northeastern Physicist Albert-László Barabási Receives Prestigious Honor for Exemplary Contributions to Interdisciplinary Science", Northeastern University website; accessed January 10, 2016.
  9. "NEC C&C Foundation". Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  10. "PNAS announces 2008 Cozzarelli Prize recipients". EurekAlert!. February 23, 2009. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  11. Archived January 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.

External links

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