Dirk Helbing studied physics and mathematics at the University of Göttingen. He completed his doctoral thesis at Stuttgart University, on modeling social processes by means of game-theoretical approaches, stochastic methods, and complex systems theory. In 1996, he completed further studies on traffic dynamics and optimization.
In 2000, he became a full professor and Managing Director of the Institute for Transport and Economics at Dresden University of Technology.Helbing was elected as a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2008 and of the World Academy of Art and Science in 2016. In January 2014 Prof. Helbing received an honorary PhD from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). Since June 2015 he is affiliate professor at the faculty of Technology, Policy and Management at TU Delft, where he leads the PhD school in "Engineering Social Technologies for a Responsible Digital Future".
Dirk Helbing started out as a physicist. His diploma thesis focussed on pedestrian, crowd, and evacuation modeling and simulation. During his PhD and habilitation in physics, he helped to establish the fields of socio-, econo- and traffic physics. He was also co-founder of the Physics of Socio-Economic Systems Division of the German Physical Society (DPG). As a visiting scientist at Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute in Israel, the Eötvös University in Budapest, and Xerox PARC in California, he focused on a broad variety of complex systems - including the self-organisation of pedestrians, traffic jams, bacterial patterns, and Mexican waves. At Dresden University of Technology he became the Managing Director of the Institute of Transport &Economics, worked on traffic assistant systems (i.e. early self-driving cars) and a self-organized traffic light control system, which was patented. He found that many crowd disasters are caused by a phenomenon called "crowd turbulence" and worked on ways to describe, reduce and respond to such disasters. As professor of Sociology at ETH Zurich, he worked on evolutionary game theory and agent-based computer simulations of social processes and phenomena.
The work of Prof Helbing has been widely cited in the media and academia and he has written more than 10 papers in Nature, Science and PNAS. In 2012, he won the Idee Suisse Award. He co-founded the Competence Center for Coping with Crises in Complex Socio-Economic Systems, the Risk Center, the Institute for Science, Technology and Policy (ISTP) and the Decision Science Laboratory (DeSciL). While coordinating the FuturICT initiative, he helped to further develop disciplines such as data science, computational social science, and global systems science in Europe.This work resulted in the establishment of the Nervousnet Platform, a smartphone app enabling users to share data to be used to achieve scientific and social goals. Helbing worked for the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Complex Systems. He was elected member of the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute and now belongs to the External Faculty of the Complexity Science Hub Vienna. He sits in the Boards of the Global Brain Institute in Brussels and the International Centre for Earth Simulation in Geneva. He is also involved in the activities of "Staatslabor" (a Swiss government science initiative) as well as the establishment of the Blockchain [X] initiative and the Blockchain Lab in Delft. He is a member of a Swiss governmental advisory group on the societal impact of digitization.