Ph.D. Student, ETH Zürich

About Me

I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Automatic Control Laboratory at ETH, Zürich. My current focus is on modelling of social networks and human decision making. I consider myself half-mathematician and half-computer scientist, with strong analytical skills and creative thinking. I like mathematical modelling of social, natural, and engineering systems.

During my spare time, I enjoy playing chess, practicing any kind of outdoor activity (especially on the mountains), travelling, photographing. I love beautiful natural landscapes and architecture.

Short Bio

During my whole childhood I have shown an interest in the world of Mathematics. I have been training with logic and algorithms since I was eight years old when I learnt to play chess. After gaining my High School Diploma with special distinction and a scholarship, I decided to leave my hometown, Venice, to follow my academic interests.

In 2010, I received my B.Sc. in Mathematical Engineering (summa cum Laude) from the Polytechnic of Turin. During my undergraduate study, I focused on different areas of mathematical modelling while building a solid analytical background. Thereafter, I completed my M.Sc. in Computational Science and Engineering at EPFL in 2013. During this course, not only I integrated my mathematical background with high performance computing competences, but I have also been exposed to cutting-edge techniques in Machine Learning and Data Science.

From 2013 to 2015, I worked as Full-stack Developer on Computational Fluid-dynamics problems for a spin-off of ETH Zürich. This experience allowed me to bring my programming skills to a professional level as well as to foster my analytical skills. Simultaneously, it gave me the chance to develop team-working and leadership skills.

In January 2016, I embarked in a new challenging experience, joining the Automatic Control Laboratory at ETH Zürich as Doctoral Student. While receiving constant heterogeneous inputs from a lively, fast-paced research environment, I enhance my interest for complex social network systems. I love the multi-disciplinarity of the topic, as well as the opportunity to deepen my knowledge in the field of Data Science.

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Technical Skills

Mathematical Modelling
Social Network Analysis
Data Science
Statistical Analysis

Soft Skills

Creative Problem Solving

Research Activity

My research interests lie at the intersection between Social Networks and Human Decision Making. More precisely, I focus on game theoretical models of social network formation. Recently, I designed an inverse game theoretical approach capable to reconstruct individual's preferences in social networks.

Future directions of my research include

  • human behavioral analysis in real-world social networks;
  • role of social circles on information spreading.

More broadly speaking, I am interested in Social and Engineering Systems and in problems that correspond to significant societal challenges, with an emphasis on areas such as autonomous systems, energy systems, finance, social networks, urban systems, and their underlying interconnections.

Open Projects

I am always looking for Master students to work on my current research topic. Usually, I require strong mathematical skills and good programming expertise. Experience on Social Network Analysis is beneficial.

If you are interested in working with me, please send me an email with your resume and your transcript of courses.

Research Timeline

NETSCIx Conference 2020, Tokyo

Invited poster on: "Emergence of scaling on the followers of social media influencers"

January, 2020
Paper published in Nature Communications

Game theoretical inference of human behavior in social networks
N. Pagan, F. Dörfler

Dec 03, 2019

Workshop on Networks Dynamics in the Social, Economic, and Financial Sciences, 05-08 Nov, 2019, Torino

Invited talk: “Game theoretical inference of human behavior in social networks”

Nov 07, 2019
Visiting Student at the Math Department (DISMA), Politecnico di Torino

Invited talk: “Game theoretical inference of human behavior in social networks”

Oct 28 - Nov 29, 2019
Complex Networks Conference 2018, Cambridge

Invited talk: “Learning strategic behavior in social and economic networks”

December 12, 2018
Summer School "Economic Networks 2018", Oxford

June 25-29, 2018
NETSCI Conference 2018, Paris

Invited talk at GameNet Symposium: ”Social Network Formation: from individual incentives to systemic stability"

Read more June 12, 2018
Infrastructure Resilience Conference, Zürich

Invited talk: "From individuals decisions to emerging social structure"

February 14, 2018 Read more

Work Experience

Ph.D. student & Research Assistant / ETH, Zürich (CH)
January 2016 - Current

Advisor: Prof. Florian Dörfler.

My research topic lies at the crossroad of Complex Networks and Data Science, with particular focus on social and economic networks as well as on human strategic decision making. I supervised several Master’s Thesis and worked as lecturer for Graduate courses such as Linear Systems Theory, Nonlinear Systems and Control, and Game Theory and Control.

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Software Engineer / Ascomp AG, Zürich (CH)
April 2013 - December 2015

Ascomp AG is a leading supplier of fluid-flow modelling solutions and simulation tools with emphasis on multiphase systems.
I worked as Full-Stack Developer, implementing new models and integrating them into the proprietary software TransAT for Computational Fluid-dynamics (CFD). I also served as consultant to a number of industrial and research project. I was internal referent for the Nuresafe European project on nuclear power plants safety. I supervised interns and Master’s Thesis.

Internship / FLUXiM AG, Winterthur (CH)
July 2012 - August 2012

FLUXiM provides simulation software and measurement hardware for research and development of Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) and Solar Cells to customers in industry and academia.
During my short internship, I designed, developed and validated the prototype of Laoss, a Finite Element Method (FEM) solver tailored for the simulation of large area OLEDs, displays or solar cells.


EPF Lausanne
2011 - 2013

M.Sc. in Computational Science and Engineering. Final degree mark: 5.45/6 .
Thesis: Coupling 1D system code OLGA with TransAT CFD.
Advisors: Prof. François Gallaire, Dr. Sylvain Reboux.

Polytechnic of Turin
2007 - 2010

B.Sc. in Mathematical Engineering. Final degree mark 110/100 Cum Laude.
Thesis: Analysis of an active speed bump model and the behaviour of a car at transit.
Advisor: Prof. Dr. Luigi Preziosi.

Honors & Adwards


Awarded a scholarship to participate to the Erasmus Program at EPF Lausanne.


Admitted to the 7th cycle of Alta Scuola Politecnica (ASP) Educational Program.


Ranked 1st at the Engineering Admission test at Polytechnic of Turin.


Scientific High School Diploma, awarded with special distinction and a scholarship.

Personal Interest

Outdoor Sports

Hiking, Climbing, Mountaineering, Mountain-biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, Ski-touring are among my favorite weekend's activities. On weekdays, I can still go out for a run, a swim in the lake. If weather is against me, you can still find me playing table-tennis indoor!


Travelling truly influences my life. I am enthusiastic about new cultures, adventures, experiences. I can't wait for the next trip!


I started playing chess as a kid, following my brother's example. Even though I do not have time to practice it often anymore, I am glad it fostered my logical/critical thinking.


Still at the amateur level, I try to push my photographic skills as hard as possible. Landscape photography is one of my favorite. Whenever possible, I combine it with travelling and outdoor sports.