Education and training

IIASA continues to strengthen researchers’ knowledge and abilities in systems analysis, both by training early-career researchers, and demonstrating its integrated models in workshops around the world. The Young Scientists Summer Program and Postdoctoral Programs in particular provide vital capacity building.

Young Scientists Summer Program

The flagship Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) allows around 50-55 PhD students to work along IIASA reserchers for three months every summer. Participants prepare a research paper during the summer, many of which are published in prestigious journals. In 2016 there were 51 participants from 25 countries who spent the summer of 2016 in Laxenburg working on their research projects in IIASA programs.


The Postdoctoral Program allows early‑career scientists to research a topic related to the scientific agenda at IIASA and hone their skills in systems analysis. In 2016 there were a total of 18 postdoctoral researchers, and several national member organizations have recently partnered with IIASA to fund postdocs from their countries. In 2016 bilateral deals for funding postdocs at IIASA were reached with Brazil, Mexico, and the Republic of Korea. As a result, applications to the program surged from 59 in 2015 to 276 in 2016 and nine new postdocs from these countries will start at IIASA in 2017. Such schemes not only benefit the individual postdoc scholars, but also contribute to developing expertise in system analysis among a country’s researchers.

2016 award winners

The Peccei Award, in recognition of rigorous research, and the Mikhalevich Award, given to students who use mathematical tools to solve real-world questions, are awarded every year to outstanding young scientists participating in the YSSP. They allow the winners to return to IIASA for another three months.

The winner of the Peccei Award with honors was César Terrer. A PhD student at Imperial College London, UK, Terrer won the award for his final paper: “Global Consequences of Nitrogen-Mycorrhizal Effects on the Land C Sink Under Rising CO2.” Terrer worked in the Ecosystems Services and Management Program during his three -month stay at IIASA.


Clara Orthofer also received a Peccei Award for her paper entitled: “Shale gas & South Africa’s energy future – too costly, too late?”. A PhD candidate at the Electrical Engineering Graduate School of the Technical University of Munich, Orthofer spent her summer in the IIASA Energy Program.


The Mikhalevich Award with honors went to Marcus Thomson from the USA for his paper on “Climate, Corn, and Culture: Simulated Impact of Paeloclimate Change on Fremont Native American Maize Farming in Utah”. Thomson, a PhD candidate at the University of California, worked in the Ecosystems Services and Management Program at IIASA.


Wei Qi also received a Mikalevich Award for his paper “Simplifying the complex: Alternative measures of bilateral migration,” which was a result of his stay at the IIASA World Population Program. Qi is a PhD student at Institute of Geographic Science and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Postdocs at IIASA in 2016

Artem Baklanov (ASA, Russia) analyzed social dilemmas using a game-theoretic approach and explored how a small change in the ‘boundedness’ of rationality influences the properties of the Nash equilibrium.

Peter Bednarik (EEP, RISK, Austria) designed a computer game based on the forestry sector, and used it to investigate the conditions under which a “tragedy of the commons” would be avoided.

Gergely Boza (EEP, Hungary) worked on two projects; the first examining the strategies plants use to influence microorganisms inhabiting their root systems and the second focusing on evolution and stability of human cooperative behavior.

Edward Byers (ENE, TNT, WAT, UK) investigated the impacts and risks of climate change on energy systems and infrastructure at a global scale to identify hotspots of risk.

Fulvio Di Fulvio (ESM, Italy) focused on mapping global forest resources and calculating the costs of supplying wood biomass for both material and energy uses.

Adam French (ASA, RISK, USA) examined the potential for watersheds in the water-stressed Global South to switch to Integrated Water Resource Management—an integrated, multi-sectoral form of water governance.

Fei Guo (AIR, ENE, China) used a bottom-up mathematical model to project energy consumption in residential buildings in China, and to simulate intervention effects of incentive policies.

Daniel Jessie (ASA, USA) analyzed social dilemmas using a game-theoretic approach and suggested a new way to uniquely decompose a game into the portion that encourages individuals to seek personally preferred payoffs and the portion that requires cooperation among players.

Luzma Fabiola Nava Jiménez (WAT, Mexico) examined the water governance regime in river basins which cross the USA/Mexico border.

Christina Kaiser (EEP, Austria) studied competitive and synergistic interactions between soil microbes belonging to different microbial functional groups in a spatially structured system.

Mia Landauer (RISK, AFI, Finland) studied the implications of loss and damage from climate change, and participatory risk governance of projects in the Arctic.

Luciano Mendes (AIR, ESM, Brazil) embarked on two projects linked to reducing agricultural pollution and optimizing resource use on farms.

Sennai Mesfun (ESM, Eritrea) studied the impact of prolonged adverse weather events in power systems with high share of renewable sources.

Piera Patrizio (ESM, Italy) used spatially explicit models to explore the economic feasibility of the industrial sector investing in carbon mitigation solutions.

Henrik Sjödin (EEP, Sweden) used mathematical models to show how migration between groups can transform simple, non-cooperative communities into highly cooperative ones.

Matthias Wildemeersch (ASA, ESM, Belgium) used network theory to develop early-warning signals and anticipatory management strategies for pest outbreaks in ecosystems.

Sam Hyun Yoo (POP, Republic of Korea) demonstrated that delayed childbearing as well as a reduced number of births per woman is affecting fertility in the Republic of Korea.

Shaohui Zhang (AIR, ENE, China) examined energy efficiency improvements in Chinese industry at various scales, and the resultant emissions savings.

Southern African Systems Analysis Centre

Building on the success of the IIASA Southern African Young Scientists Summer Program, which ran from 2012-15, the South African National Research Foundation and the country’s Department of Science and Technology, in collaboration with IIASA, created the new Southern African Systems Analysis Centre (SASAC) to expand systems analysis capacity development in the region.

Launched in 2016, SASAC provides a dedicated bursary program for South African PhD students based at South African universities to complete their studies with a supervisor experienced in systems analysis. A total of 19 PhD students enrolled in 2016, and as well as visiting IIASA for the chance to learn more about the institute and its research, they were given two months of dedicated training in systems analysis at two South African universities. In addition, 28 early-career researchers had the opportunity to attend a capacity-strengthening program, which included a short course and presentations contributed by IIASA.

Building systems analysis expertise

In 2016, IIASA scientists hosted or coordinated 92 events worldwide, including a number of workshops and activities designed to build capacity in systems analysis. Below is a small selection of these activities.