Michael Small

CSIRO-UWA Chair of Complex Systems, Professor, Director of the UWA Data Institute

  • The University of Western Australia (M019), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile

Roles and responsibilities

I am interested in complex systems and how understanding of complexity can help solve real engineering and social problems. My undergraduate degree was in pure mathematics (with an honours dissertation in the history of mathematics) and my graduate degree was in applied mathematics (in nonlinear dynamical systems and nonlinear time series analysis). From 2001 I worked as a researcher and lecturer in the Electronic and Information Engineering Department of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In 2011, I was awarded a professorial Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council and took up a position with the School of Mathematics and Statistics, at UWA. 

Since 2016 I have held the CSIRO-UWA Chair in Complex Systems and have appointments at both UWA (Faculty of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences) and CSIRO (Mineral Resources). I am the current Director of the UWA Data Institute. I am Chief Investigator of the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Transforming Maintenance through Data Science, (and an Adjunct Professor at Curtin University)  and of the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Transforming Energy Infrastructure Through Digital EngineeringI lead the Complex Systems Group at UWA.

My academic duties include the position of Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the journal Chaos (the leading journal within my discipline) and Main Editor of the journal Physica A.

My research is focussed on fundamental advances and applications in the area of complex systems and dynamical systems theory. 


Recent UWA Complex Systems Seminars are available online. 

Research interests

My research is in the broad areas of Dynamical Systems Theory and Complex Systems Theory. Specifically, I am interested in the development of modern mathematical techniques and the application of these techniques to real-world problems - particularly problems that have traditional been considered as "too hard" for mathematics to solve. 

Through the Young Lives Matter Foundation I am currently working on developing a mathematical understanding of the causes and risks of suicide among young people. I am CI of a million minds mission project Transforming Indigenous Mental Health & Wellbeing, investigating issues of indigenous mental health and particularly mental health in remote communities. I also work closely with industry and am currently involved in two Industrial Training and Research Hubs with major industry partners and looking at applying mathematical modelling and data analysis to better understand vital industry processes. 

Since 2003 (and SARS in Hong Kong) I have been interested in modelling disease transmission with contact networks using the methods of Network Science. My first paper modelling super-spreaders in transmission of coronavirus was published in 2006 and much more recently featured on the front of the Wall Street Journal (sorry, pay-walled). Sometimes, academic impact takes a little while.

Industrial relevance

Previous consulting work or current industry collaborations include work with: BHP, Woodside, INPEX, Shell, Rio Tinto, Roy Hill, Alcoa, AngloAmerican, Bureau Veritas, Lloyds, MRIWA, CORE Skills, Main Roads, Water Corporation, Resource Capital Funds (RCF), Proteus Virtual Tradiing Systems (Proteus VTS) and Integrated Energy.

Previous positions

Department of Electronic and Informaation Engineering, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, 2001-2011

Department of Physics, Heriot-Watt University, 1999-2001

Department of Mathematics, Stellenbosch University, 1998

Princess Margaret Hospital, 1995-1996.


Sylvia, Julia, Python, C, C++, Pascal, FORTRAN, Mathematica and MATLAB

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

Education/Academic qualification

Applied Mathematics, PhD, The University of Western Australia

Award Date: 28 Jun 1998

Pure Mathematics, BSc(Hons), The University of Western Australia

Award Date: 8 Dec 1994

External positions

Adjunct Professor, Curtin University

2019 → …

CSIRO-UWA Chair of Complex Engineering Systems, CSIRO - Mineral Resources

2016 → …

Industry keywords

  • Mining and Resources
  • Health

Research expertise keywords

  • Complex systems
  • Complex networks
  • Non-linear dynamics
  • Non-linear time series analysis and modelling
  • Biological applications (e.g. disease transmission, neurodynamics, systems biology)
  • Disease modelling
  • Complex data modelling
  • Complex Engineering Systems


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