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 Genome Science
IMPRS for Neurosciences

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


The newly founded company EcoBus GmbH is developing software infrastructure that combines shuttle services and regular bus services to provide a sustainable public transport solution


Size of aerosol droplets that virus carriers release strongly influences infectivity


If the case numbers are low, contact restrictions can be relaxed relatively quickly in the course of the vaccination campaign


A group of international scientists proposes a sustainable strategy in the Covid-19 pandemic


The Max Planck Society honours the physicist for her science communication during the COVID-19 pandemic


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.

Postdoctoral Researcher positions | Living Matter Physics

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen July 16, 2021

PhD positions | Nonequilibrium Statistical Physics of Active Matter and Living Systems

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen July 16, 2021

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.


Random Focussing of Tsunami Waves

2017 Fleischmann, Ragnar; Geisel, Theo

Complex Systems

The effect of branched flow explains how even minute fluctuations in the ocean depth can focus the energy carried by a tsunami wave. A tsunami wave can focus the energy of a seaquake in certain directions where it causes devastating destruction. Current research from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization shows that minute fluctuations in the ocean depths can lead to focusing effects and generate strong height fluctuations in the tsunami wave. This formation of a branched flow has severe implications on the way we have to think about predicting tsunamis.


Coordinated fluid transport by ciliated surfaces

2016 Westendorf, Christian; Gholami, Azam; Faubel, Regina; Guido, Isabella; Wang, Yong; Bae, Albert; Eichele, Gregor; Bodenschatz, Eberhard

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

Active and directed fluid transport are crucial for the survival of eukaryotic organisms. This is often carried out by ciliated tissues e. g., the inner wall of the ventriclar system in the mammalian brain. Using a novel method the complexity of the cilia driven fluid flow in the third ventricle of the brain is revealed. Furthermore, ciliated tissues, which are capable of driving such complex flows are interesting for synthetic biology and applications in technology. Therefore, our working group at the MPI for Dynamics and Self-Organization currently attempts to rebuild such ciliated carpets.

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