Northeastern University physicist Albert-László Barabási has once again been recognized for his outstanding contributions to science. Joining a long list of award winners credited with historic contributions such as creating the World Wide Web, Professor Barabási is one of two scientists celebrated this year by the NEC C&C (Computers & Communications) Foundation of Japan for contributions to R&D activities and pioneering works related to the integration of computers and communications technologies and the social impact of developments in these fields.
Professor Barabási’s award has been given to him in recognition of stimulating innovative research on networks and discovering that the scale-free property is a common feature of various real-world complex networks. His research in this area represents a paradigm change in our understanding of complex systems.
“The committee evaluated that Professor Barabási’s idea for scale-free networks were not confined to a specific technology area but led to an understanding of a wide variety of phenomena in the real world,” said Dr. Hiroshi Gokan, executive director NEC C&C Foundation. “We are looking forward to the further development and expansion of his research activities.”
The 2008 C&C prize ceremony, including a certificate of merit, a plaque, and a cash award of 10 million yen, took place in Tokyo this month. Previous recipients of the C&C prize include such pioneers of the Internet and the World Wide Web as Paul Baran, Vinton G. Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, and Gordon E. Moore.
Among his achievements in the area of networks, the award committee cited Professor Barabási’s and his team of researchers’ 1999 discovery stating that the World Wide Web is not a randomly connected network but a scale-free network. By discovering two generic mechanisms, the first being that networks expand continuously with the addition of new nodes and the second that new nodes preferentially link to already well-connected nodes, Barabási theoretically derived the power-law distribution for the number of links characterizing the nodes in the World Wide Web.
“Understanding complex networks is fundamental to humanity’s quest to build new technologies, cure diseases, and improve our society, and I am delighted that the NEC C&C foundation has considered this line of research worthy of their attention” said Barabási, distinguished professor of physics and director of the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern. “The NEC C&C Foundation has recognized dozens of trailblazers who have made a foundamental impact on our society through research, and I am honored to be in a group of such distinguished minds.”
The committee also noted that the most pronounced insight into networks by Professor Barabási is that the scale-free feature is not limited to the Web, but is a generic feature of a variety of networks, including social networks, transmission maps for infectious diseases, the citation patterns of scientific publications, metabolic networks with metabolites linked by chemical reactions in different living organisms, and flight maps connecting airports. Professor Barabási’s 2002 book entitled “Linked: The New Science of Networks” summarizes his research focus and findings.
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