Institute for Complex Systems - Sapienza - CNR

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ISC Sapienza

Home Page of Andrea Cavagna

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is this my only white shirt?


Post-Doc, Theoretical Physics, Physics Dept, Manchester University, UK, 2001 (with Alan Bray and Mike Moore)

Post-Doc, Condensed Matter, Theoretical Physics Dept, Oxford University, UK, 1999 (with David Sherrington)

Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics, University of Rome Sapienza, Italy, 1998 (Spin-Glasses - advisor Giorgio Parisi)

M.S. and B.A. in Theoretical Physics, University of Milan and SISSA - Trieste, Italy, 1995 (Conformal Field Theory - advisor Giuseppe Mussardo)

I was trained as a theoretical physicist and I have studied for some years the statistical mechanics of disordered systems, with a particular interest in spin-glasses, structural glasses and supercooled liquids.  I have also been involved for a brief period in multi-agents modelling and econophysics.

In 2005 I began working on collective behaviour in biological systems, trying to adopt an interdisciplinary approach that uses methods from statistical physics to solve biological and ethological problems. In this second life of mine, I mainly work on collecting and analyzing empirical data about bird flocks and insect swarms, but we are currently also starting two new projects on stem cell collective motion and on malaria mosquitoes swarming. All this turned me from a theoretical physicist into an experimental biologist, with some consequences on my health. My principal collaborator in this line of research is Irene Giardina.

I belong to the Sapienza unit of the Institute for Complex Systems (ISC-CNR). I am also associated to the Department of Physics at the University Sapienza, Rome.

My publications (by Scholar)

My lab - Collective Behaviour in Biological Systems (COBBS)


The basis of our overall methodology is linking the experimental data (observed behaviour) with the theories explaining the interactions rules governing large animal groups.  This broad mandate requires an interdisciplinary approach ranging from field experiments, to computer vision, to statistical physics.  In general, we have split our focus in two areas:  i) experimental data gathering and processing; ii) data analysis and theory.  Our experimental work is carried out in the natural habitat of the animal we are studying.  We use multiple synchronized high speed cameras to capture image sequences of the aggregation.  By using novel computer vision algorithm,  we are then able to reconstruct the 3D trajectories of each individual in the group.  Our data analysis follows a theoretical approach inspired by the  principles of statistical physics.


To get a general idea of my work you can watch this Public Lecture I gave at the Institut Poincare', Paris, in February 2015.


Silent Flocks make the headlines: our new hydrodynamic theory of flocking has been published in Physical Review Letters and featured in the APS magazine Physics.


Here you can find a recent science popularization talk that I gave at TEDx-Napoli, about collective behaviour and the order-disorder transition.

Sadly, it's in italian; the jacket is great, though.


The amorphous excitations in a deeply supercooled liquid

I am working on devising new methods to detect a growing static correlation length in deeply supercooled liquids. By using amorphuos boundary conditions we measured for the first time a thermodynamic correlation length. In so doing we test the validity of different theoretical frameworks of the glass transition, namely the Adam-Gibbs theory and the Mosaic (aka Random First Order) theory. We are also trying to measure the surface tension between different amorphous phases in deeply supercooled liquids and to establish a link between static relaxation and dynamic heterogeneities through the concept of surface tension. My coworkers on this topic are Paolo Verrocchio, Tomas Grigera, Chiara Cammarota, Giacomo Gradenigo, Giulio Biroli and Jean-Philippe Bouchaud.

Figure: amorphous excitations in a deeply supercooled liquid.

Read more about the growth of amorphous order in glass-forming liquids.

We recently calculated the specific heat in a system with amorphous boundary conditions, finding an intriguing peak. This work has been published in Physical Review Letters.


Check my pedagogical reviews on spin-glasses and supercooled liquids, the infamous Spin-Glass Theory for Pedestrians and Supercooled Liquids for Pedestrians.


People in my group say I'm an jerk! Check this great video (mostly in italian) on how it is working with me.



  • Massimiliano Viale - collective behaviour: computer vision, maximum entropy method
  • Stefania Melillo - collective behaviour: experiments, data analysis
  • Lorenzo Del Castello - collective behaviour: experiments
  • Chiara Creato - collective behaviour: experiments


  • Leonardo Parisi (PhD in Computer Science) - computer vision, tracking
  • Daniele Conti (PhD in Physics) - collective behaviour, theory


I teach the 40hrs course Statistical Field Theory for Latecomers for graduate students at the PhD School in Physics at the University Sapienza


Dr Andrea Cavagna
Via dei Taurini 19
00185 Rome
tel: +39 06 4993 7460
fax: +39 06 4993 7440
email: andrea --dot-- cavagna --at-- gmail --dot-- com


This is it, the Mongibello.


  • Edmondo Silvestri (PhD): simulation of spef-propelled particles models
  • Raffaele Tavarone (Diploma): dynamical maximum entropy in flocks
  • Duccio Piovani (Diploma): dynamical maximum entropy in simulations
  • Chiara Cammarota (Diploma and PhD): glasses, surface tension in amorphous systems, growth of amorphous order, mosaic theory
  • Alessio Cimarelli (Diploma): collective animal behaviour, experiments, velocity field
  • Valentino Pompili (Diploma): collective animal behaviour, diffusion properties
  • Fabio Stefanini (Diploma): collective animal behaviour, experiments, tracking
  • Alessandro Attanasi (Diploma and PhD): elastic effects in supercooled liquids, effects of quenched disorder in superconductors
  • Andrea Procaccini (PhD): collective animal behaviour, experiments, data analysis
  • Alessia Annibale (Diploma): Spin Glasses
  • Elisa Trevigne (Diploma): Spin Glasses
  • Giulia Gualdi (Diploma): Spin Glasses
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