Principal Investigator

Andrea Cavagna Andrea Cavagna
I work at the Institute for Complex Systems of the National Research Council, in Rome. I have a background in theoretical physics and statistical field theory. After studying for some time the statistical mechanics of disordered systems, as spin-glasses and supercooled liquids, my research interests shifted in the last ten years to the collective behaviour of biological systems. My lab has been the first to combine the production of large-scale data (groups of up to 3000 individuals) with a theoretical approach inspired by statistical physics and field theory.

Senior group member

Irene Giardina
I am a member of the Department of Physics at Sapienza University and an associate member of the Institute for Complex Systems (ISC) of the National Research Council. I am a theoretical physicist, with a background in statistical physics. I worked for some time on disordered systems and glassy behaviour in condensed matter, and then moved to biological systems. Together with Andrea Cavagna, I founded the CoBBS lab.
Tomas S. Grigera
My research has involved theoretical and computer simulation studies of structural glasses and supercooled liquids. In the last years, I have moved to study collective effects on biological groups, applying concepts and techniques from statistical physics, focusing on collective motion. In particular, I have studied the dynamics of insect swarms, analyzing experimental data, and doing numerical simulations. Most recently, I have been studying active matter models relevant to collective motion with field-theoretic techniques and using correlation functions to describe the structure and dynamics of rain forests. I hold a permanent position at the University of La Plata and CONICET (Argentina).
Massimiliano Viale
I’m a researcher at the Institute for Complex Systems ISC (PhD Physics): disordered systems and optimization theory are my backgrounds. I worked extensively on computer vision problems and statistical inference in a variety of problems ranging from biological groups to clinical data. Recently, I look at the relationship between information theory and statistical mechanics in order to deal with collective response to perturbations of out of equilibrium systems. Maximum entropy method and numerical simulations are my daily bread.
Stefania Melillo
I am the Head of the Experimental and Tracking unit of RG.BIO team. My background is in applied mathematics but from 2010, when I joined CoBBS group, my research is mainly focused on 3D field experiments with stereo-camera systems. I am fascinated by all aspect of the experiment: from the design of the set-up and the data collection to 3D tracking and data analysis. I have a deep experience in standard static systems and recently I moved my interest to the development of dynamic 3D systems, a rather demanding set-up that is still unexplored for field experiments on collective animal behavior.
Leonardo Parisi
I am a computer scientist. My work is mainly focused on computer vision, 3D tracking, and GPU programming. I am fascinated by collective animal behavior and in the last years I have joined the CoBBS group at the Institute for Complex Systems ISC where I am now a researcher. I also work on the reconstruction of the 3D trajectories of the space debris, in collaboration with the 5SLab at DIMA (Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) of University Sapienza of Rome.

Administrative Staff

Agnese D’orazio
I work as administrative assistant to several research projects, most of them on collective behaviour. In this position, I work closely with principal investigators, researchers and external collaborators.
I assist with negotiation and reporting activities serving as main contact for funding agencies. I also provide logistical support to projects coordinating activities that involve both research and administrative staff in my Institution.


Zachary Stamler
I have a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Portland State University with a concentration in signal processing and machine learning. Here at COBBS Lab I am working on field data gathering on starling flocking and midge swarms. In addition, I am currently working on extending machine vision methods for data extraction from video datasets of dense swarms, specifically those gathered from the Vaux’s Swift migrations in Portland, OR.

PhD Students

Mattia Scandolo
I am a PhD student in theoretical physics at Sapienza University in Rome. My research interests are statistical physics, critical phenomena, non-equilibrium systems, and their applications to biological systems and collective behavior. My thesis is focused on the Dynamic Renormalization Group technique in out-of-equilibrium systems.
Mario Veca
I am a Ph.D. student in theoretical physics, with a background in classical statistical mechanics. In the past, I worked on disordered systems defined on Bethe lattice, while now my main research activity focuses on the out of equilibrium study of the response theory for active matter systems.


Matteo Fiorini
I’m a master’s degree student in physics of biosystems. I have always been curious and fascinated by nature and all its aspects. I’m working at CoBBs Lab in the experimental activity of field data gathering on flocks of birds and swarms of midges.
Angelo Giustiniani
I am a master’s degree student in Mathematics with a focus in algebra and geometry. Recently I have developed a curiosity about statistical physics and his broad applications, in particular models of neural networks and living systems.
Roberto Angelo Palombella
I’m a master degree student in Theoretical Physics. My studies are focused in the field of statistical physics. I have always been fascinated by complex systems that can be found in nature, as well as by the possibility of studying them using methods and tools of statistical physics.

Former Postdocs

Antonio Culla
I am a PhD student in theoretical physics, I am interested in using statistical mechanics tools to study complex systems. Now I am studying a new model, from a theoretical and a numerical point of view, in order to reproduce some peculiar statistical properties of starling flocks speeds.
Riccardo Beschi
I am a physicist, I graduated in 2018 at Sapienza university. In September 2020, I joined the experimental team of CoBBS lab. I’m involved in conducting experimental campaigns on flocks (starlings) and swarms of midges.
Davide Squizzato
My main research interest is universality in out-of-equilibrium systems, with a special focus on Renormalization Group techniques in both their perturbative and non-perturbative formulations. I deeply studied the universal properties of Kardar-Parisi-Zhang equation in the presence of long-range temporal correlations, using non-perturbative renormalization group formalism but, more recently, I got interested in the universal behaviour of biological systems displaying out-of-equilibrium features.
Xiao Feng
I am a postdoctoral researcher in mechanical engineering. My research is focused on the nonlinear dynamics with control. Now my theoretical work is mostly related to a motion control system, which is designed for moving the cameras to follow the fast moving flocks precisely. As a member of experimental team, I have conducted experiments and collected a lot of data about starling flocks in the past few months.
Willow Kion-Crosby
After completing my Ph.D. in physics at Rutgers University, I am currently conducting theoretical and computational research at Sapienza University. During my career as a graduate student, I began a project on the rigorous modeling of both cellular processes and whole populations to investigate the underlying mechanisms responsible for the codon usage bias. Currently I am working on the application of this theoretical framework to predict single-cell fitnesses based on codon usage.
Lorena Postiglione
I am a postdoctoral researcher in Biomedical Engineering. In April 2019, I joined the experimental team of CoBBS lab. I’m involved in conducting experimental campaigns on flocks (starlings) and cell colonies (mesenchymal human stem cells). I also work on the development of segmentation and tracking algorithms for the lineaging of proliferating stem cells.
Pablo Villegas Góngora
I’m a researcher focused into exploring the idea of criticality in living matter, as well as its consequences for the emergence of collective phases and cooperative phenomena. In December 2019, up to now, I’m part of the experimental team taking and processing all the images from the field.

Former PhD Students

Luca Di Carlo
My research interest focuses on emergent phenomena in large groups of individuals. I am a theorist specialized in statistical field theory and Renormalization Group. I have a background on disordered systems, and currently, I am working on an out of equilibrium model capable to reproduce the critical behaviour observed experimentally in swarms of insects.
Federica Ferretti
I am a theorist. I am intrigued by the multiple aspects of non-equilibriumness. My work has focused so far on stochastic time series analysis and Bayesian methodology, in the attempt to fortify the existing connection between theoretical flocking models and experimental data. My interests recently extended to the investigation of possible quantitative estimates for non-equilibrium effects in these active systems.
Giulia Pisegna
My research is focused on the study of critical dynamics of equilibrium and out-of-equilibrium systems through Dynamic Renormalization Group techniques and numerical simulations of active matter models. My theoretical work is mostly related to the collective behaviour properties of natural swarms in the wild.

Former Master’s degree Student

Andrea Lama
I’m a master degree student in theoretical physics with a background in statistical physics, thrilled by the modelling power of physics in the most various scenarios. My thesis work is focused on studying collective behaviour in flocks