Luis Bettencourt

Department of Ecology and Evolution and the College

In his research, Luis Bettencourt, the inaugural Pritzker Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, uses data on topics ranging from transportation to housing, to understand cities in quantitative and predictive ways. He creates new urban theory that helps to explain how cities thrive and the challenges they face, based on the integration of ideas from such urban disciplines as geography, economics, and sociology, using methodologies from the natural and computational sciences. He also focuses on understanding the role of innovation and technological change as a driver of economic growth and human development in cities around the world and throughout history. One of his most influential research projects has helped explain the systematic association between the size of urban areas and higher rates of economic productivity and innovation, as well as higher costs of living and violent crime.

Bettencourt received a doctorate in theoretical physics from Imperial College London. He held postdoctoral positions at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of Heidelberg, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served on the 2015 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology working group on technology and the future of cities, and was a Kavli Fellow for the National Academy of Sciences’ Frontiers of Science Symposium. He comes to the University from the Santa Fe Institute, where he was a professor of complex systems.

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