About Damon Centola

Contact Information
Annenberg School for Communication
3620 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6220
Phone: (215) 898-7954
Fax: (215) 898-2024

Associate Professor, Annenberg School for Communication
Associate Professor, School of Engineering
University of Pennsylvania

Director, Network Dynamics Group

Faculty, Warren Center for Networks and Data Science

Faculty, Master of Behavior and Decision Sciences Program

Faculty, Penn LDI, Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics

Curriculum Vitæ

My research addresses the complex dynamics of collective behaviors. One set of projects uses agent based models to understand how changes in the topology of social networks can impact the spread of social contagions. Other work uses web-based experimental methods to test these models and provide new theoretical insights into research on collective behavior. Research areas include the emergence of unpopular norms, the mobilization of committed minorities, and the polarization of cultures.

This research has won the 2006, 2009 and 2011 American Sociological Association Award for Outstanding Article in Mathematical Sociology, and the 2011 Goodman Award for Outstanding Contributions to Sociological Methodology. My work has been published across sociology, physics and public health in journals such as The American Journal of Sociology, The Journal of Statistical Physics, PNAS, and Science. Popular accounts of this work have appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The Washington Post, and CNN.

Before coming to UPenn, I was an Assistant Professor in Behavioral and Policy Sciences at M.I.T., and had been a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy at Harvard University. I received my Ph.D. in Sociology from Cornell University as part of an NSF IGERT program in Non-linear Dynamics and Chaos. I have also been a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution, the Santa Fe Institute, the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, and Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.


  • 2017 James Coleman Award for Outstanding Article of the Rationality and Society Section of the American Sociological Association
  • 2016 Fellow, Wharton Mack Institute
  • 2014–15 Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University
  • 2014–15 Fellow, Lenore Annenberg and Wallis Annenberg Endowment for Communication
  • 2014 Awarded US Patent (#8713143) for inventing “A method of creating social networks designed to facilitate diffusion of desired behavior among groups of people.”
  • 2012 Runner-up, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Young Leader Award, Recognizing Innovative Leadership in American Healthcare
  • 2011 Goodman Award for Outstanding Contribution to Sociological Methodology, American Sociological Association
  • 2011 Award for Best Publication in Mathematical Sociology, American Sociological Association
  • 2010 MIT Faculty Award for Research in Computers and Communications
  • 2009 Award for Best Publication in Mathematical Sociology, American Sociological Association
  • 2006 Award for Best Publication in Mathematical Sociology, American Sociological Association



  • Keynote: Washington University in St. Louis Medical School Symposium, Missouri, April 2018
  • Stanford, California, April 2018
  • Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico, April 2018
  • Columbia, Mailman School of Public Health, April 2018
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, Washington, D.C., March 2018
  • Penn, Knowledge Teach-In, March 2018
  • UCSF, PRISM Conference, December 2017
  • NYU, Center for Data Science, December 2017
  • University of Chicago, Computational Social Science Workshop, November 2017
  • Penn – CMU, Roybal Center on Behavioral Economics and Health Annual Meeting, October 2017
  • cSCAN, Glasgow, Scotland, October 2017
  • Santa Fe Institute, New York, July 2017
  • Analytical Sociology Workshop, Stockholm, Sweden, June 2017
  • UC Davis, Re-computing Social Sciences Workshop, May 2017
  • Keynote: Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, New Orleans, March 2017
  • UCLA, California’s Center for Population Research, February 2017
  • Harvard, GSE, February 2017
  • Drexel, Department of Psychology, January 2017
  • Penn, Behavioral Economics and Health Symposium, December 2016
  • UCSF, Center for Vulnerable Populations, December 2016
  • Penn, The Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences, November 2016
  • Keynote: American Heart Association Annual Innovation Forum, Chicago, November 2016
  • Keynote: Social Informatics, Seattle, November 2016
  • Penn- CMU, Roybal Center on Behavioral Economics Annual Meeting, October 2016
  • Penn, Psychology and Evolutionary Biology, October 2016
  • Ignite Talk, RWJF, New York City, October 2016
  • Princeton, Department of Sociology, October 2016
  • Yale, YINS Workshop, September 2016
  • Stanford, Department of Psychology, July 2016
  • Keynote: Norms, Actions and Games Conference, Toulous, June 2016
  • WZB Berlin Science Center, Berlin, June 2016
  • Sorbonne, Paris, June 2016
  • Institute for Advanced Study, Sweden, June 2016
  • Cornell, Department of Sociology, April 2016
  • Duke, Department of Communications, April 2016
  • Keynote: Center for Mathematical Sciences Annual Symposium, Auckland, NZ, February 2016
  • Keynote: AAAI & World Wide Web and Population Health (W3PHI), February 2016
  • Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA, January 2016
  • Penn, Language and Cultural Evolution Workshop, December 2015
  • Penn, Health Communication Speaker Series, December 2015
  • Penn, Perelman School of Medicine, December 2015
  • Penn, Elihu Katz Honorary Lecture, November 2015
  • Penn, Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences, October 2015
  • Colby, Sociology Seminar, October 2015
  • Rutgers, Center for Cognitive Science, September 2015
  • ICA Panel on Computational Social Science, Puerto Rico, May 2015
  • Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, Northwestern University, May 2015
  • Gould School of Law, University of Southern California, April 2015
  • Psychology Department, Stanford University, April 2015
  • Media X, Stanford University, March 2015
  • Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, February 2015
  • Network Science Seminar, Northeastern University, February 2015
  • Keynote: Center for Mathematical Social Sciences Annual Symposium, Auckland, New Zealand, December 2014
  • Department of Sociology, Columbia University, November 2014
  • National Cancer Institute, Shady Grove, MD, November 2014
  • Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, October 2014
  • Keynote: Bloomberg School of Public Health Symposium, Johns Hopkins University, October 2014
  • Symposium on Computational Social Science, Stanford University, August 2014
  • NSF Symposium on Knowledge Transfer, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, August 2014
  • Microsoft Research, New York City, June 2014
  • Complex Systems Scholars Symposium, James S. McDonnell Foundation, May 2014
  • Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, April 2014
  • Institute for Advanced Computational Science, SUNY Stony Brook, April 2014
  • Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, UCLA, January 2014
  • Simons Center for the Theory of Computing, Cal Berkeley, November 2013
  • U.S.-China Health Summit, Harvard School of Public Health, October 2013
  • Behavioral Ethics Seminar, Philosophy Department, University of Pennsylvania, October 2013
  • Decision Process Seminar, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, October 2013
  • NIH RAPIDD Workshop, Epidemiology and Networks, Princeton University, October 2013
  • Web-Based Social Science Forum, American Sociological Association, August 2013
  • Apple, Cupertino, CA, June 2013
  • Center for Vulnerable Populations, UCSF, May 2013
  • Scott & White Healthcare, Austin, TX, May 2013
  • Atlantic Causal Inference Conference, Harvard University, May 2013
  • U.S. Surgeon General’s Office: Program for Health Innovation, April 2013
  • Future ICT Conference, Media Lab, MIT February 2013
  • Plenary speaker, MIT Conference on Future of Health and Wellness, February 2013
  • School of Public Health, Yale University, January 2013
  • National Academy of Sciences, Kavli Frontiers of Science Symposium, December 2012