Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization

Turbulence in clouds, neuronal fireworks in the brain, the physics of individual cells and the flow of water and oil through porous stone – these, and other particularly complex systems, are the focus of the research carried out by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization. Here, “complex” means that many individual systems combine to form a whole, the dynamics of which cannot necessarily be identified through the behaviour of the individual systems. Scientists say that these systems “organise themselves”. This holds true for the interaction of neurons in the brain (for example during learning) as well as for the numerous swirls that combine to form a turbulent cloud. There is reason to hope that a better understanding of the latter will enable a more accurate prediction of the future influence of clouds on global climate.


Am Faßberg 17
37077 Göttingen
Phone: +49 551 5176-0
Fax: +49 551 5176-702

PhD opportunities

This institute has several International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Physics of Biological and Complex Systems
IMPRS for Neurosciences
IMPRS for Genome Science

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Fluid Physics, Pattern Formation, and Biocomplexity

Aerial view of a mountain massif with a basin in the foreground, glaciers stretching to the horizon behind the mountain.

Microplastic fibers are settling substantially slower than spherical particles in the atmosphere


Convection of salty water creates hexagonal patterns

Young men and a few women, some of them wearing German national soccer team jerseys, are sitting in a pub, apparently looking at a screen outside the picture. Some of them put their hands in front of their faces or over their heads.

The epidemiological baseline situation determines how much the corona infection increase as a result of a major event such as a European soccer championship

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Viola Priesemann's life has changed a great deal since the corona epidemic first started in Germany: Priesemann, the head of a research group at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, is now investigating not only information processing in the brain, but also how the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads. And ever since, her daily routine has included consultations with policymakers, giving interviews, and appearing on TV.

For Ragnar Fleischmann, it was a surprising discovery: in simulations depicting the flow of electrons in semiconductors, he observed behavior resembling that of tsunamis and rogue waves on the open sea. Today, his team at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Goettingen is researching electronic processes with a view to improving forecasts of destructive waves.

It is extremely difficult to get around in rural areas without a car of your own, either due to a lack of public transport or because scheduled buses are infrequent. That is why a team led by physicist Stephan Herminghaus, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Goettingen, have developed the EcoBus, a system that lets customers order a bus directly to their front door. The special thing about it is that, unlike other on-call systems, rather than poaching customers, the EcoBus will augment existing public transport services.

Fighting Turbulence with Eddies

Physics & Astronomy

Turbulence is omnipresent: it plays an important role during planet formation, mixes fuel and air in the cylinder of an engine, but also increases the energy needed for pumps to push oil through pipelines. Björn Hof and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen investigate the finer points of how it originates and search for tricks to prevent the eddies from forming where they interfere.

New forms and sources of energy need new power lines as well. In the future, a larger number of small, distributed wind and solar installations in place of a smaller number of large power plants are projected to supply Germany with energy. At the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, the Network Dynamics Group headed by Marc Timme is investigating how the high-voltage grid will respond to this and how it can be optimized.

PhD Position (m/f/d) | Collective Dynamics of Living Neuronal Networks

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen July 15, 2024

All the world – a game? 

2022 Godara, Prakhar; Aléman, Tilman; Heidemann, Knut; Herminghaus, Stephan 

Cognitive Science Complex Systems

We develop model agents whose cognitive capacity can be constrained and who act human-like in public goods games. Exploring their collective behavior in networked game geometries will pave the way to predictive simulations of social equilibria and instabilities. Initial results show remarkable universalities in the dependence of willingness to invest in public goods on the degree of connectedness of game groups. These correlate well with everyday experience, which renders the agent model promising for further exploration.


Understanding the physics of life: from molecules to systems

2021 Agudo-Canalejo, Jaime; Mahault, Benoît; Golestanian, Ramin 

Cell Biology Complex Systems Material Sciences Neurosciences Solid State Research

Despite numerous research approaches it is still not well-understood how the individual components of a cell self-organize to form a living cell. In the recently established Department of Living Matter Physics, we search for new physics in living systems, bridging the scales from individual molecules to macroscopic systems to uncover general principles in the organization and emergence of living matter as well as synthetic, life-like active matter. 


Theory and practice of COVID-19 containment

2020 Priesemann, Viola; Wilczek, Michael

Complex Systems Mathematics

In early 2020, the world was taken by surprise by a virus: SARS-CoV-2 spread at blazing speed and confronted everyone with unexpected challenges. Within weeks, we in Göttingen produced groundbreaking new insights into the spread and containment of COVID-19: We analyzed and predicted the spread, quantified aerosol exposure and effectiveness of masks, and designed realistic containment strategies. We made all of these findings available to the public as quickly as possible via press releases, interviews and position papers.


statistical physics and future mobility

2019 S. Herminghaus*, L. J. Deutsch, C. Hoffrogge-Lee, M. Patscheke, M. Timme, A. Sorge, N. Molkenthin, N. Beyer, P. Marszal, D. Manik, F. Jung, C. Brügge, J. Simons, M. Schäfer, D. Gebauer, A. Hahn, C. Malzer, F. Maus, W. Frühling, J. Schlüter, V. Chifu, I. Gholami, T. Baig-Meininghaus

Complex Systems Structural Biology

In order to reduce the volume of traffic on our roads, the number of passengers per vehicle must be increased. This can be achieved by ride-pooling and by strengthening scheduled services. Using statistical physics methods, we have developed a general description whose predictions we have been able to confirm through experiments (i.e. pilot projects). We have now brought this system close to market maturity. We are aiming at large scale commercial deployment in the near future, with the aim of increasing sustainable mobility in the countryside and the quality of life in cities.


In the Clouds  

2018 Bodenschatz, Eberhard; Wilczek, Michael; Bagheri, Gholamhossein

Cell Biology Complex Systems Material Sciences Neurosciences Solid State Research Structural Biology

The insufficient understanding of cloud physics is a major source of uncertainty in weather and climate models.  In addition to water vapour, clouds consist of water droplets and ice particles. Their dynamics are significantly influenced by the high degree of turbulence within the clouds. The question of better weather and climate predictions is therefore closely linked to the understanding of turbulence and its role in cloud microphysics. A better understanding of these phenomena is the goal of new experimental and theoretical investigations at the MPIDS.

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