Damon Centola

Damon Centola, Ph.D.

Damon Centola
  • Elihu Katz Professor of Communication, Sociology, and Engineering
  • Director, Network Dynamics Group
  • Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics

Damon Centola studies social networks and behavior change. His work identifies the social causes of disease outbreaks; the origins of political conflict and ideological polarization; and the dynamics of tipping points in social norms.

Damon Centola is The Elihu Katz Professor of Communication, Sociology, and Engineering in the Annenberg School for Communication, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is Director of the Network Dynamics Group and Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.

His research addresses social networks and behavior change. His work has been published across several disciplines in journals such as ScienceProceedings of the National Academy of SciencesAmerican Journal of Sociology, and Journal of Statistical Physics. Centola received the American Sociological Association’s Award for Outstanding Research in Mathematical Sociology in 2006, 2009, and 2011; the Goodman Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Sociological Methodology in 2011; the James Coleman Award for Outstanding Research in Rationality and Society in 2017; and the Harrison White Award for Outstanding Scholarly Book in 2019. He was a developer of the NetLogo agent based modeling environment, and was awarded a U.S. Patent for inventing a method to promote diffusion in online networks. He is a member of the Sci Foo community and Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Centola’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Facebook, the National Institutes of Health, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation. He is a series editor for Princeton University Press, and the author of How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions (Princeton University Press, 2018), and Change: How to Make Big Things Happen (Little, Brown, & Co., 2021).

Before coming to Penn, Centola was an Assistant Professor at M.I.T. and a Robert Wood Johnson Fellow at Harvard University. His speaking and consulting clients include Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Cigna, the Smithsonian Institution, the American Heart Association, the National Academies, the U.S. Army, and the NBA. Popular accounts of his work have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, TIMEThe AtlanticScientific American, and CNN.


  • B.A., Marlboro College, 1997
  • M.A., Cornell University, 2004
  • Ph.D., Cornell University, 2006

Selected Publications