Complexity Explorer Santa Fe Institute

About Complexity Explorer

Bring the Santa Fe Institute to you.  Complexity Explorer is your online gateway into an exciting world seen through the prism of complexity, led by the Santa Fe Institute’s network of renowned faculty.  Access an ever growing resource of massive open online courses and tutorials designed to aid you in joining our global network of complex systems scientists. From the novice wanting to learn what complexity is, to the experienced research professional seeking a new approach, SFI’s Complexity Explorer will provide you with the frameworks, tools, and applications you need to become a Complexity Scholar. 

Complexity Explorer is a web-based repository of educational materials related to complex systems science. Currently under development by researchers and educators at the Santa Fe Institute and Portland State University, Complexity Explorer hosts SFI’s online courses, as well as an extensive complex systems glossary and easily searchable databases of syllabi and other resources related to complex systems topics. Complexity Explorer also hosts a “Virtual Laboratory” consisting of open-source simulation programs illustrating complex systems ideas, theories, and tools, accompanied by curricula designed for both teachers and independent learners who want to take advantage of these simulations. All course materials and resources of the Complexity Explorer website are open to anyone.

About the Santa Fe Institute

The Santa Fe Institute is a private, not-for-profit, independent research and education center, founded in 1984, where leading scientists grapple with some of the most compelling and complex problems of our time.

Researchers come to the Santa Fe Institute from universities, government agencies, research institutes, and private industry to collaborate across disciplines, merging ideas and principles of many fields -- from physics, mathematics, and biology to the social sciences and the humanities -- in pursuit of creative insights that improve our world.

The Institute's scientific and educational missions are supported by philanthropic individuals and foundations, forward-thinking partner companies, and government science agencies.



Project Leaders:

Julia Heusinkveld (Program Coordinator, Online Education, Santa Fe Institute)

Paul Hooper (Director of Education, Santa Fe Institute)

Melanie Mitchell (Professor, Portland State University and Santa Fe Institute)

Program Assistants:

Carla Shedivy (Education Program Coordinator Santa Fe Institute)

Course Instructors (to date):

Melanie Mitchell, Portland State University and Santa Fe Institute

David Feldman, College of the Atlantic

Liz Bradley, University of Colorado, Boulder and Santa Fe Institute

Bill Rand, North Carolina State University

John Miller, Carnegie Mellon University and Santa Fe Institute

Tutorial Instructors (to date):

David Feldman, College of the Atlantic

Liz Bradley, University of Colorado, Boulder and Santa Fe Institute

Simon DeDeo, Carnegie Mellon University and Santa Fe Institute

Sid Redner, Santa Fe Institute

Anthony D. Rhodes, Portland State University

Seth Lloyd, Massachussets Institute of Technology

Justin Grana, Santa Fe Institute

Artemy Kolchinsky, Santa Fe Institute

Brendan Tracey, Santa Fe Institute


Website Design and Development:


Bot & Rose Design, Portland, OR


Supported by the John Templeton Foundation from 2013-2017 as part of a grant to the Santa Fe Institute, and by user contributions. 

History of Complexity Explorer

Former Vice President of Education at the Santa Fe Institute, Ginger Richardson, and Portland State University Professor Melanie Mitchell began thinking about creating an online course back in 2010.  SFI's summer schools were always oversubscribed, and it was clear there was greater demand for learning about complex systems than SFI had the ability to fill at the time.  This propelled them to launch the first Short Course, in 2010, which was popular but again limited in the number of people that could attend and also pay the tuition fee.  The rise of Massive Open Online Courses suggested to them that creating a MOOC platform and complexity themed MOOCs could help reach those students craving an understanding of complex systems who were not able to travel to the Santa Fe Institute.

In 2011 the Complexity Explorer project was officially launched by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to the Santa Fe Institute.  In 2012 the platform was developed and in early 2013 the first MOOC, Introduction to Complexity with Melanie Mitchell, was launched with over 7000 enrolled students.  A second grant from the John Templeton Foundation to SFI funded the Complexity Explorer project from the beginning of 2015 to the end of 2017.