Many-Body Physics & Biology Group

Dervis Can Vural, Assistant Professor. Physics Department, University of Notre Dame. Email:, Tel: 617-401-5659, Room: 384g








We are a theoretical group interested in the many body behavior of physical and biological systems in which disorder and strong interactions play and important role.

We use a combination of analytical and computational methods. Systems of interest include disordered solids, complex networks, population genetics and evolution, inverse problems, reliability theory, swarms and active matter, and various foundational questions in quantum many-body theory and statistical mechanics.

Our research is driven by three fundamental questions: (1) Universality: To what extent do microscopic laws determine macroscopic behavior? (2) Statistics: How should microscopic laws should be transformed to give macroscopic ones? (3) Inversion: Can microscopic laws be uniquely determined from macroscopic observations?

Evolution of Aging

Neutral (non-selective) evolution establishes random dependencies between cells. Over many generations every cell depends on at least one other to survive. During an individual lifetime cells have a small probability of malfunctioning. However malfunctioning cells cause further malfunctions, eventually leading to a catastrophic collapse.

The accumulation of damage is statistically irreversible over a very large parameter regime even if the cells are allowed to repair. Therefore it is not evolutionarily economical to do much repair. Read more.

Social Evolution in Flowing Media

We study how flow patterns influence the evolution of social cooperation. We have discovered that flow shear enables and promotes social behavior in microbes, by tearing apart microbial clusters, and thereby limiting the spread of cheating strains. In a vortex, cooperative microbes can sustain only within a ring. In a flowing pipe, they can only sustain near the boundaries, where the shear is larger than a critical amount. Hover mouse over images to play simulation videos.

Disordered Solids

Materials such as glasses, polymers, disordered crystals, quasi-crystals and proteins lack long range order, and are thus referred as disordered solids. The standard model describing disordered solids at low temperatures postulate that these materials are composed of two level systems, i.e. atoms, or groups of atoms with two available discrete configurations.


All disordered solids universally exhibit certain properties which cannot be explained by the two level systems model. Here is a critique of the said model, and here is a more general model, from which the universality is derived.


Evolution of Complexity1Evolution of Complexity 2

Start with a large number of unrelated species, put them together and wait for many generations. Eventually the interactions between them evolve into a tangled web of exchanges - so much, that no species can survive in isolation. Above are connectivity matrices and phylogenic trees of two such communities subject to different selective pressures. Higher pressures induce community formation. Read more.

Model Awareness

A model need not be a passive descriptor of its subject. If the subject is affected by the model building process, the model must be updated in real time. In some cases the model will drive the subject away from its own predictions, and the two will never reach an equilibrium. Read more.