Introduction to Agent-Based Modelling

Agent-based models are computational simulation models, applied in a wide range of disciplines across the social sciences, used to explore complex problems. This class provides an accessible introduction to agent/individual based models and the complex problems they are used to explore, with an emphasis on healthy cities applications.

Course Description:

Agent-based models are computational simulation models applied across the social sciences, and (as individual-based models) in the ecological sciences. These simulation models are used to explore complex problems that are beyond the limits of analytical mathematics. Often simple models are also developed as exploratory “tools to think with”. Classic agent-based models have been used to explore urban segregation, social imitation, formation of social networks, complex transportation problems, land markets, and predator-prey models, among other areas.


There are no prerequisites other than upper-division or graduate standing. However, students are expected to have a facility with basic mathematics and introductory statistics. No programming background is required.

Recommended: Students must be self-motivated and able to follow a “flipped class” model, where course readings are completed, and online lectures viewed before class. You must obtain the text and complete the reading and required exercises. If you are one of those students who does not purchase texts and/or do readings, this class is not for you.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have demonstrated the ability to:

  • Understand the feature of a complex system. Be able to provide and explain an illustrative example.
  • Understand the fundamentals of agent-based modelling.
    • What kinds of models are these?
    • What kinds of problems are they used to explore?
    • What are sound design principles for ABMs, including design, documentation, analysis, and interpretation of results?
  • Gain basic competence with the NetLogo programming language.
  • Explore and extend running agent-based models applied to scientific research.
  • Design and carry out a very basic agent-based modelling project—appropriate for your background, academic objectives, and prior knowledge.

How to Register:

To register for the Agent Based Modelling course please email [email protected] and include the following:

  • Please include “ABM course registration” in the subject header.
  • Please include your supervisor or advisor in your email.
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