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The cutting-edge field of network science will finally have a home at Penn.

The Warren Center for Network & Data Sciences, opening Friday, will support the Network and Social Systems Engineering program and provide funding for network science research.

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While the Warren Center does not have a physical location yet, it will nevertheless provide financial support for research endeavors, particularly those projects which have difficulty finding funding through traditional channels. Michael Kearns, director of the Warren Center and an Engineering professor, said they are especially looking for “projects that have some chance of doing social good.”

The idea for the Warren Center was conceived in conversations between Kearns and Fred and Robin Warren, the donors for the center, as an “intellectual home” where “people from many different disciplines can get together and collaborate.”

Kearns describes network science as “the study of large-scale networks with many elements,” from social networks to biological networks.

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Studying networks can help researchers understand, “who gets a job, who gets infected, which band becomes popular and so on,” Rakesh Vohra, co-director of the center and a Penn Integrates Knowledge professor of engineering and economics, said.

“We are now in possession of huge troves of such data which we can now use to ask and answer a huge variety of questions,” he added.

Kearns sees Penn as uniquely poised to be a leader in the study of networks. “There’s a particular motivation to have such a center at Penn because Penn is a really great center for interdisciplinary study and research,” he said.

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The Warren Center will also fund lecture series, both for researchers and for the general public. They plan to bring in high-profile speakers such as Engineering dean Eduardo Glandt and Stanford professor Alvin Roth, winner of a Nobel Prize, who are scheduled to speak at the opening this Friday.

“Interesting problems do not respect disciplinary boundaries,” Vohra says, which is why he hopes the Warren Center will bring together “smart, curious people from around the University.”

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