Alessandro Vespignani

Alex Vespignani is the Sternberg Distinguished Professor of Physics, Computer Science and Health Sciences.


PhD, University of Rome, 1994

Area(s) of Expertise

Theoretical Condensed Matter and Biological Physics

Research Interests

Alessandro Vespignani research activity is focused on the study of “techno-social” systems, where infrastructures composed of different technological layers are interoperating within the social component that drives their use and development. In this context we aim at understanding how the very same elements assembled in large number can give rise – according to the various forces and elements at play – to different macroscopic and dynamical behaviors, opening the path to quantitative computational approaches and forecasting power.

The main research lines pursued at the moment are:

  • Develop analytical and computational models for the co-evolution and interdependence of large-scale social, technological and biological networks.
  • Modeling contagion processes in structured populations.
  • Developing predictive computational tools for the analysis of the spatial spread of emerging diseases.
  • Analyze the dynamics and evolution of information and social networks.
  • Model the adaptive behavior of social systems.

Prof. Vespignani is a joint appointment between the College of Science, the College of Computer and Information Science, and the Bouvé College of Health Sciences.

Lab Website


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1010 – 177 Huntington Ave

Researchers use Twitter to track the flu in real time

An international team led by Northeastern’s Alessandro Vespignani has developed a unique computational model that uses Twitter to project the spread of the seasonal flu in real time. With it, public health agencies can plan ahead, allocating medical resources and launching preventative care campaigns.

Underreporting of Zika is rife; researchers project epidemic’s spread

New research from Northeastern professor Alessandro Vespignani finds that the number of reported Zika cases in the U.S. may be just the tip of the iceberg due to widespread underreporting. The study also models the predicted spread of Zika across the Americas through 2017.

In the News: Does The Olympics In Rio Put The World In Danger Of Zika?

Sternberg Distinguished University Professor Alessandro Vespignani tells NPR that he doesn’t believe Zika poses a big enough risk to move the Olympic games out of Rio this summer.

Northeastern researchers examine the Zika pandemic

As the Zika virus continues its inexorable spread, a panel of faculty members discussed how they—and by extension we—can be part of the global solution.

What social media data could tell us about the future

Can a flow of information across Twitter signal when a momentous event is about to occur? Northeastern’s Alessandro Vespignani and an interdisciplinary group of scientists developed a method to find out. Their findings represent an initial step in constructing models to detect trouble before it’s too late.

World-​​renowned scholars launch Northeastern’s Network Science Institute

The Network Science Institute, home of the nation’s first doctoral program in network science, brings together an interdisciplinary team of renowned Northeastern scholars to plumb the structure and function of systems and develop intervention strategies to improve the health and security of people around the world.

Should we be worried about the plague?

California’s Department of Public Health announced last week that a child contracted the plague after visiting Yosemite National Park in July, the third reported case this year. With the plague’s recent return to the news, we took a look at some myths and truths about the centuries-old disease.

How to battle disease using Big Data

At the latest installment of the “Minds over Matters: NUterm Faculty Speaker Series,” Sternberg Family Distinguished University Professor Alessandro Vespignani described how his lab is able to predict the spread of a disease by tracking just one person.

3Qs: Tracking the flu

College of Science professor Alessandro Vespignani, a world-renowned network scientist, is working to forecast the spread of the flu.

A new tool to follow Ebola news on Twitter

A new Web tool co-developed by network scientist Alessandro Vespignani and his team at Northeastern’s MoBS Lab pulls Twitter mentions of Ebola-related keywords and displays them on an interactive world map – allowing the public to follow the latest news and discussion in real time.

Big Data, innovative research

An interdisciplinary group of Northeastern faculty and students led interactive demos and presentations showcasing their research projects that leverage Big Data at the university’s sixth Pop Up Open Lab Experience and Reception on Monday.