My name is Arianna Bottinelli and I am an applied mathematician with a background in theoretical physics and a deep fascination for human and animal collective behavior and any form of artistic expression.

In 2016 I obtained my PhD in Applied Mathematics within the Collective Behavior Group and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Mathematics at  Uppsala University, in Sweden.

My main research interest is the emergence of collective motion in high-density crowds and crowd disasters. I am also interested in the evolution and optimization of transportation networks in animals and human society.

During my first postdoc at NORDITA, the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Stockholm, I developed new theoretical techniques inspired by physics that allow to understand and predict the emergence of density waves and collective motion in crowds. In 2019 I moved to Inria Rennes for a second postdoc in the Rainbow team. Here, I collaborated with experts in computer vision and crowd simulations to develop physics-based quantitative technologies for crowd safety based on my research.

I am interested in communicating science, especially through illustration and data visualisation, and in the relation between art and science.

Currently, I serve the physics community as Associate Editor in Nature’s Communications Physics. I handle manuscripts in complex systems, soft and active matter, complex networks, biophysics, and interdisciplinary physics in general.

In my spare time I dance tango, draw, paint, play guitar, travel around, read, and take up weird random projects, which most recently translates into brewing kombucha.


As both art and science are continuously evolving, also this website is permanently under construction.


Cover art: visualization of self-propelled particles’ trajectories in a 2D simulation inspired by human motion at rock concerts.



High-density crowds

Currently, my research focusses on high-density crowds and their motion. I use mathematical modelling and take inspiration from diverse fields of physics – theoretical physics, condensed matter, granular media, active matter, complex networks – to develop new methods to understand, predict, and prevent the emergence of crowd disasters. [Know more!]

Complex networks and transportation systems

I am interested in the evolution of complex networks and in the optimization of transport systems modelled in the framework of spatial networks. I have worked on protein-protein interaction networks, ant trail networks, and I am currently studying the evolution of the French national railway system. A fundamental property common to these (sometimes very different) networks is that they evolve in time. Thus, a common underlying question is how local and decentralised rules of evolution lead to large-scale properties and optimization.

To answer this question I blend mathematical models and numerical simulations with concepts from network theory, non-equilibrium physics, and statistical mechanics.

I started working with networks for my master thesis in theoretical physics. I developed and studied analytically and numerically a growth model for the network describing the physical interactions between proteins that could also explain the experimental data about birth and evolution of different classes of proteins [Download]. During my PhD I resumed network theory to understand self-organization in ant trail networks. Here, the question is how 2 mm ants can build networks spanning hundreds of kilometers that are transport-efficient and resistant to disruptions, but not too expensive to build and maintain. This was a fun data-based modelling project in collaboration with  Dr. Latty, an expert in insect ecology at the University of Sydney. [Download][Press]. This project brought inspiration for a more theoretical work where I studied the large-scale and long-term consequences of minimizing building costs versus minimizing maintenance costs [Download]. More recently, I am analyzing the evolution and optimization of the French railway network from 1840 – when railways were legailzed in France – to 2000. Stay tuned!

Curriculum Vitae

 Download my CV 

Current position

07/2019 – present . Senior Editor, Communications Physics, Nature, London (UK).

Past positions and Education

02/2019 – 06/2019. Postdoctoral researcher, Rainbow Team, Inria Rennes (France).

04/2017 – 01/2019. Postdoctoral fellow, NORDITA – Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, and Stockholm University (Sweden).

09/2011 – 11/2016. Ph.D. Applied Mathematics, Collective Behaviour Group and Centre for Interdisciplinary Mathematics (CIM), Uppsala University. Thesis title: “Modelling collective movement and transport network formation in living systems”. Supervisor: Prof. David Sumpter.

01/2011 – 09/2011.  Research Assistant, Collective Behaviour Group, Uppsala University, with Prof. David Sumpter.

2007 – 2010.  M. Sc. Theoretical Physics, Università Statale di Milano, Italy. Thesis title: “Statistical models of constrained evolution for protein interaction networks”. Supervisor: Prof. Bruno Bassetti. Grade 110/110 cum laude.

2003 – 2007. B. Sc. Physics, Università Statale di Milano, Italy. Thesis title: “Extra-dimensional theories for cosmology”, Supervisor: Prof. Daniela Zanon. Grade 105/110.

Scientific Activity

Academic supervision.

2018. Olle Eriksson, Master thesis in Applied Mathematics, Uppsala University. [Supervisor]

2015. John Svensson and Andreas Gådin, Master project in Computer Science, Uppsala University. [Co-supervisor].

Conference organization.

2016. Main organizer of the “Collective Motion 2016” workshop, Uppsala University.


2012-2013. “Mathematical Modelling in Biology”, Biology Department, Uppsala University; ~20 students, master and graduate; 20 hours frontal lectures + 18 hours computer lab.

Awards and Fellowships

2017. Nordita Fellowship for postdoctoral research.

2017. Wenner-Gren travel grant.

2017. GSOFT travel grant.

2015.  Best Flash Talk Award at the “Mediterranean School of Complex Networks”.

2014.  EtoilePM travel grant.

 2014. Wallenbergs travel grant.

And also…

Talks and Seminars

Extended research visits

Schools and Conferences

Media Coverage

Science Communication and Illustration



A. Bottinelli, S. Henkes, and J.L. Silverberg, “Can high-density human collective motion be forecasted by spatiotemporal fluctuations?” Preprint on the arXiv!

A. Bottinelli, M. Gherardi, and M. Barthelemy, “Efficiency and shrinking in evolving networks”, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 16: 20190101, (2019) [A quantitative study of the evolution of the French Railway network] [Download]

A. Bottinelli and J.L. Silverberg, “How to: Using Mode Analysis to Quantify, Analyze, and Interpret the Mechanisms of High-Density Collective Motion”, Frontiers in Applied Mathematics and Statistics, 3, 26, (2017). [Invited by the editors for a special issue about “novel technological and methodological tools for understanding collective behavior”.][Download]

A. Bottinelli, R. Louf, and M. Gherardi , “Balancing building and maintenance costs in growing transport networks”, Physical Review E, 96 032316 (2017). [Theoretical paper inspired by my previous work on ant transport networks. From an independent collaboration.][Download]

A. Bottinelli, D.J.T. Sumpter, and J.L. Silverberg, “Emergent Structural Mechanisms for High-Density Collective Motion Inspired by Human Crowds”, Physical Review Letters, 117, 228301, (2016). [This paper presents the first results obtained by using mode analysis to understand and predict collective motion in high-density crowds.] [Download][Supplemental][Press]

A. Bottinelli, E. van Wilgenburg, D.J.T Sumpter, and T. Latty, “Local cost minimisation in ant transport networks: from small-scale data to large-scale tradeoffs”, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 12 20150780 (2015). [Interdisciplinary work in collaboration with Dr. Latty, at the University of Sydney.][Download][Press]

A. Bottinelli, A. Perna, A.J.W. Ward, D.J.T. Sumpter, “How do fish use the movement of other fish to make decisions?”, Proceedings of the European Conference on Complex Systems 2012, Springer International Publishing (2013). [My first project in animal collective behaviour.][Download]

A. Bottinelli, B. Bassetti, M.C. Lagomarsino, M. Gherardi, “Influence of homology and node age on the growth of protein-protein interaction networks.”, Physical Review E, 86 041919 (2012). [Publication from my master thesis.][Download]


You can download my PhD thesis here. 

I’m also very proud of the cover, which I designed myself:


If you’re curious about other artistic stuff, have a look at the Science Communication and art sections!




ariannabottinelli (at) gmail.com

arianna.bottinelli (at) nature.com