Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Lauren Bryant
Research & Creative Activity

Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Research magazine explores the brave new world of networks

April 21, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The spring 2009 issue of Indiana University's Research & Creative Activity magazine showcases the science, art, and scholarship of networks, a new field of research is that expanding rapidly in the 21st century.

With a remarkable array of faculty members addressing networks of all kinds, from trade networks to financial systems to the spread of disease, the provision of health care, and the inner workings of our brains, Indiana University is at the forefront of studying how networks operate.

Research & Creative Activity

Interpreting its theme broadly, this issue of IU's award-winning research magazine encompasses the physical, biological, digital and social networks that connect us, from Antarctica's glaciers to Mexico's ancient trade routes to the Internet's virtual worlds.

Polar science -- the study of ice sheets -- is routinely conducted in some of the most isolated and extreme places the planet has to offer, creating extreme difficulty for scientists trying to gather and process crucial data in a timely manner. A lead article for this issue describes Polar Grid, a National Science Foundation-funded project in which IU is collaborating to help polar scientists use radar mapping for collecting large quantities of data while the researchers are actually on the ice. Working in conjunction with Elizabeth City State University and the University of Kansas, IU information scientists are enabling scientists to analyze the impact of climate change in real time.

IU's part of the Polar Grid project is led by Geoffrey Fox, director of the Community Grids Lab, a part of IU's Pervasive Technology Institute in Bloomington. The Polar Grid project is a key example of IU's new strategic plan for information technology, according to Vice President of Information Technology Brad Wheeler. In the issue, Wheeler outlines IU's new IT plan, which focuses on strengthening connections between people and technology, among collaborators as well as across institutions, disciplines and geographical boundaries.

In other articles, IU network scientists and informatics specialists discuss their varied research projects aimed at visualizing knowledge and building collaborative Web portals that provide researchers with unprecedented access to information and data along with the tools to interpret and analyze it.

Statistician and social networks expert Stanley Wasserman talks about the importance of including network analysis in research related to critical and complicated issues such as health.

"Networks are complicated to study because you can't use regular statistical models," Wasserman says. "Network data are tricky to model. Different types of models work for different relationships."

Sociologist Bernice Pescosolido, distinguished professor and director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, specializes in studying the impact of social networks on personal mental health.

"We're not asking individuals enough about what kinds of support systems they now have, and we're not creating those support systems," she says in a story for the Spring 2009 issue. "A lot of classic problems in medicine, such as poor adherence to doctors' orders, are addressed less effectively by encouraging individual patients alone than by encouraging and supporting those around them as well."

Beyond digital and social networks, the issue also looks at the ultimate complex network, the human brain. IU cognitive scientist Olaf Sporns and colleagues have used diffusion MRI technology to create the first-ever complete, high-resolution map of the brain's neural architecture.

"On the one hand, the brain is just a bunch of cells connected to each other with wires," says Sporns, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. "On the other hand, the brain is the seat of things like thought, memory, emotion and other high-level cognitive functions. The ultimate question is, how do we get from cells and wires to thought and memory?"

The elegant artwork of Nicole Jacquard rounds out the issue. Jacquard, an assistant professor of fine arts at IU Bloomington who trained as a jeweler, now creates sophisticated sculptural objects using computer-aided design, rapid-prototyping and a printer that produces 3-D objects.

Research & Creative Activity magazine is published semiannually by IU's Office of the Vice Provost for Research. The magazine's Web site can be found at For inquiries regarding its content, please contact the editor at 812-855-4152 or e-mail