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Information theory tackles the complexity of biological systems

Complex systems and networks are present in all fields of science and technology. In her dissertation, Septimia Sarbu applies information theory to these systems and demonstrates how the architecture of a complex system shapes its dynamical behaviour.

Our technological capabilities are constantly developing, enabling us to investigate extremely complex natural systems, such as biological systems, and to engineer systems of increasing complexity. In order to understand how these systems work, we need powerful analysis methods that can tackle such complexity. The connection between the structure of the complex system and the way it functions, referred to as its dynamics, is essential in the synthesis and control of new complex systems. Thus, characterizing the structure-dynamics relationship in these systems becomes essential for such purposes.

A complex system is composed of a very large number of agents that interact with each other in intricate ways. The overall behaviour of a system is very different from the behaviour of each of its individual elements. Furthermore, the overall behaviour cannot be predicted based on the smaller agents alone. This makes it extremely difficult to analyse complex systems with traditional methods.

One tractable way to handle the complexity of such systems is to measure the amount of information transferred between the agents of the system and the patterns of information transfer. By such methods, we can gain valuable insight into how the structure and the dynamics influence each other. The novelty of the analysis methods in Sarbu’s dissertation lies in the fact that these complex systems are viewed as information processing systems. By analysing the information processing and propagation in such systems, we can find out how the architecture of the complex system shapes its dynamical behaviour.

Public defence of a doctoral dissertation on Friday, 20 May

The doctoral dissertation of MSc (Tech) Septimia Sarbu in the field of signal processing entitled ‘Information theoretic analysis of the structure-dynamics relationships in complex biological systems’ will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Computing and Electrical Engineering of Tampere University of Technology (TUT) in room TB222 of the Tietotalo building (address: Korkeakoulunkatu 1, Tampere, Finland) at 12 noon on Friday, 20 May 2016.

The opponent will be Professor Roberto Serra (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy). Professor Olli Yli-Harja from the Department of Signal Processing of TUT will act as Chairman.


Further information:

Septimia Sarbu, tel. +358458459910,

The dissertation is available online at:

News submitted by: Tiina Leivo
Keywords: science and research