WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 29, 2010) -- Cadets, recent graduates and faculty from the West Point Network Science Center -clad in custom lime-green Hawaiian shirts- presented their work at the Sunbelt Conference on social network analysis in Riva del Garda, Italy.

The conference, which took place from June 29-July 4, attracted more than 800 members from academia and industry.

Social network analysis is an emerging discipline in the social sciences that focuses on how social relationships interplay with factors such as risky behaviors, employment opportunities and team performance.

As a multidisciplinary field, SNA involves researchers from a range of disciplines including economics, sociology, statistics and politics.

Each attendee from the Network Science Center presented a half-hour talk on one of an array of topics, which included post-traumatic stress disorder, statistical methods for change detection and financial markets.

"Presenting to a group of Ph.D.s and industry professionals from around the world is a unique opportunity," Class of 2012 Cadet Benjamin Johnson said. "We received valuable feedback which we will use to refine our projects for senior theses."

Recent graduates also attended the conference to present their senior theses including 2nd Lt. Iain Cruickshank, Class of 2010. Cruickshank won a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for three years of Ph.D. study and a Rotary Scholarship for a year of study at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom.

"The Network Science Center has allowed me to present my work at a number of conferences and workshops, which made me competitive for graduate scholarships," Cruickshank said. "I feel well prepared for graduate studies next year."

Staff and faculty present at the conference said that the rigorous intellectual environment both challenged and nurtured cadets to think deeply and critically about their research.

"Conferences and workshops provide an unparalleled platform for the cadets to interact with academia," the trip's officer-in-charge, Maj. Ian McCulloh, said. "It is a truly enriching experience which helps to broaden the skill-sets of West Point graduates."

The Network Science Center was founded in October 2009 and is one of 21 centers at West Point bringing a margin of excellence to cadet education and development, according to Lt. Col. John Graham, NSC director.

"With external resourcing from Army Research Labs, Army Research Office, Army Research Institute and DOD research organizations, our cadets are doing work in cutting edge science for which there are no textbooks," Graham said.

The West Point Network Science Center supports nearly 100 research trips like attendance to the Sunbelt Conference each year.

The NSC brings together service members, civilians and cadets to research and develop significant contributions in the study of network representations of physical, biological and social phenomena leading to predictive models.

"Imagine the abilities of our graduates as leaders who do not just passively receive information, but instead know how to actively discover and identify what is important," Dan Evans, the NSC executive officer, said. "The last survey of battalion commanders indicated that our graduates and rotating faculty are hot commodities."

To learn more about the NSC, visit the website at www.netscience.usma.edu/.