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Professor Damien Hicks

Group Leader, Complex Systems
PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States; MS, Stanford University, United States; BS, Stanford University, United States


I received my BS (1993) and MS (1993) from Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering and my PhD (1999) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Applied Plasma Physics. From 2000-2014 I was a post-doc then staff physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, working in high energy density physics. From 2010-2012 I led an experimental team in the nuclear fusion program at the National Ignition Facility. After returning to Australia, I was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow from 2015-2019 when I redirected my research towards the study of living systems. I currently lead the Complex Systems group which develops new methods of statistical inference for probing biological dynamics. A key theme in our work is how symmetry can be used to identify the objects of interest in a complex system. We have used representation theory to develop lineage variability maps which identify the stages of cellular decision-making in noisy lineage trees. Another theme is the role of identifiability in dynamical systems, which we have shown can both obscure and reveal physiological drivers of brain dynamics. Through a dialogue between biological questions, physical models, and statistical methods we aim to improve how to extract mechanistic insights from noisy, high-dimensional data.

Research interests

Computational Biology; Applied Statistics; Complex Systems

PhD candidate and honours supervision

Higher degrees by research

Accredited to supervise Masters & Doctoral students as Principal Supervisor.


Available to supervise honours students.

Honours topics and outlines

Molecular networks: Molecular networks underpin all living systems, bringing robustness and reliability to life. Yet when studied at the level of a single cell, these biological circuits are noisy and unpredictable. It is an enduring mystery how stable life forms can be built on such turbulent foundations. Projects are available to study the interplay of noise and function in cancer and cell death.

Fields of Research

  • Atomic, Molecular, Nuclear, Particle And Plasma Physics - 020200
  • Biological Physics - 029901

Teaching areas

Statistical Mechanics;Classical Mechanics


Also published as: Hicks, Damien; Hicks, D.; Hicks, D. G.; Hicks, Damien G.
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Recent research grants awarded

  • 2020: 3D Nanofabrication and Nanocharacterisation facility *; ARC Linkage Infrastructure and Equipment Scheme
  • 2014: Ultrafast Photonic Electron Microscopy: Visualising dynamics at the nanoscale *; ARC Future Fellowships

* Chief Investigator

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