Albert-​​László Barabási, a world-​​renowned net­work sci­en­tist at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, has received the 2011 Lagrange-​​CRT Foun­da­tion Prize for his body of research on com­plex net­works in nat­ural, tech­no­log­ical and social systems.

The prize, which includes a $71,800 cash award, is given by the Insti­tute for Sci­en­tific Inter­change Foun­da­tion, in Turin, Italy.

Win­ning the award was pleas­antly sur­prising,” said Barabási, a Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Physics with joint appoint­ments in biology and the Col­lege of Com­puter and Infor­ma­tion Sci­ence, and the founding director of Northeastern’s Center for Com­plex Net­work Research (CCNR).

CCNR is con­sid­ered the leading university-​​based center for net­work sci­ence research in the world. The center focuses on how net­works emerge, what they look like, how they evolve and how net­works affect our under­standing of com­plex systems.

In 1999, Barabási’s ground­breaking research led to the dis­covery of scale-​​free net­works, which can be found in human cells and online com­mu­ni­ties, such as Facebook.

Taking a network-​​based approach to iden­ti­fying and bat­tling dis­ease, he said, could help reveal the bio­log­ical sig­nif­i­cance of muta­tions asso­ci­ated with life-​​threatening illnesses.

As he put it, “Net­work theory pro­vides a set of tools to under­stand and solve prob­lems in our society that revolve around com­plex systems.”

Ear­lier this year, Barabási and Yang-​​Yu Liu, a post­doc­toral research asso­ciate in Barabási’s lab, coau­thored a study on the ways in which greater con­trol of com­plex sys­tems, such as cel­lular net­works or social media, can be achieved by merging the tools of net­work sci­ence and con­trol theory. The research find­ings were fea­tured as the cover story in the May 12 issue of the journal Nature.

The research could have a variety of appli­ca­tions, said Barabási, from devel­oping cures to meta­bolic dis­eases, to offering new insights into the design of better organizations.

He may use his prize-​​winnings to take his family on a vaca­tion around the world. “I have a long-​​term dream of vis­iting Africa,” he said, “but with a 2-​​and 3-​​year-​​old, it could be many years away.”

View selected pub­li­ca­tions of Albert-​​László Barabási in IRis, Northeastern’s dig­ital archive.