Understanding the complexity of cities – Diego Rybski with DFG funding at the IOER

Funded by the Heisenberg Programme of the German Research Foundation (DFG), Dr Diego Rybski has been researching at the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER) since February. Over the next five years, the scientist will be investigating the question of whether cities can be understood as complex systems, similar to physics, and what conclusions can be drawn from this for sustainable urban planning. With the Heisenberg Programme, the DFG supports outstanding researchers with research projects of high quality and originality.

Dr Diego Rybski is taking up the Heisenberg position at the IOER with the aim of investigating and understanding cities as complex systems. Whether differences in the volume of commuter traffic, the frequency and intensity of social contacts or the dynamics of urban growth – all of these phenomena have similarities with laws from physics, in particular gravity. In his project "Gropius – Gravity and flows of population in urban systems", Diego Rybski is investigating the similarities between these phenomena and processes to find out how they relate to each other and whether they are compatible. "These findings can be helpful for the urban planning of the future. If different urban processes could be harmonised, this would mean that we could drive urban planning more effectively towards sustainability transition. We need to understand cities before we can improve them," says the scientist, explaining his research interest.

Dr Diego Rybski completed his doctorate in physics at Justus Liebig University Giessen. He has spent time abroad at the City College of New York and Bar-Ilan University (Israel). He also conducted research at the University of California in Berkeley as part of the Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Most recently, Rybski worked for several years at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy. At the IOER, he is now a member of the "Spatial Information and Modelling" Research Area. "With this Research Area and the Research Data Centre that the institute is currently establishing, the IOER offers an excellent working environment for my further scientific qualification in a national and international research context," Diego Rybski is certain. He is looking forward to the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration, he adds.

Contact at the IOER
Dr Diego Rybski, e-mail: D.Rybskiioer@ioer.de

The Heisenberg Programme of the German Research Foundation (DFG) supports researchers who meet all the requirements for appointment to a long-term professorship and who have a track record of outstanding research work. It enable these outstanding researchers to prepare for a senior academic role while continuing their research work. Funding of a Heisenberg position is initially awarded for a three-year period and may be offered for another two years. An evaluation is carried out at the end of the third year. The funding programme is named after Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976), who revolutionised physics with the development of the uncertainty principle.


The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.