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Cognitive Data Science

My research focuses on data science approaches to cognition and language processing through complex networks, Big Data analytics and AI.

Understanding Data

Each dataset has its own story, each method its interpretability. In order to unlock them, I exploit my training in complexity science and spot links across disciplines in creative/quantitative ways.

Excellent Research

I aim for cutting-edge research in modelling human cognition through data science, as indicated by my publication portfolio and my active international collaborations.

Science Outreach

Cognitive data science can deeply revolutionise Education. I am actively engaged in designing data-driven approaches for studying STEM subjects and complexity science.


Welcome, I am Massimo Stella PhD

Lecturer in Computer Science @ University of Exeter

Founder @ Complex Science Consulting

Welcome to my personal webpage,

I am Dr. Massimo Stella and currently have a permanent lectureship (Assistant Professor in the US system) in the Department of Computer Science, University of Exeter, UK.

I graduated cum laude in Physics at University of Salento, Italy, and have an integrated MSc and a PhD in Complex Systems Simulation (Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, UK).

I am also alumnus of the Santa Fe Institute and member of the Institute of Physics.

In 9 years of experience in research as network scientist, I designed novel multi-layer network models for predicting cognitive processes like language learning and progressive cognitive impairments. I also work on stance detection and emotional profiling in social media.

As reported in my publications, my analytical problem-solving background, computational skills and passion for complexity science make me a versatile thinker, capable of solving creatively complex problems, both independently and as a team-player.

As a young academic, I am passionate about teaching and science outreach and am an active member of the NetSciEd Committee. I am also available for industrial scientific consulting and have founded my own consulting brand, Complex Science Consulting, for cognitive data analysis.

Please scroll down for reading more about my research expertise.

Flagship Projects

Active Worldwide Collaborations

Years of Experience in Research

Published Research Items

Modelling human cognition and its diseases

Human cognition organises language as a highly dynamical structure, called the mental lexicon, that is accessed when hearing, reading or producing words. Among many other successful applications, harnessing the structure of the mental lexicon allows to predict early word learning and achieving better methodologies for diagnosing and even restoring language disorders in clinical conditions like aphasia or Alzheimer‘s disease. The availability of Big Data and tools from network science have enabled quantitative large-scale investigations of the mental lexicon, opening novel challenges for understanding the human mind and designing effective intervention strategies for cognitive pathologies.

Automatic natural language processing

Machine learning and complex networks are powerful tools in performing automatic analysis of natural language, like extracting the topic of a given text or understanding the emotions elicited by messages on social media.

Through the prestigious consulting network of the University of Exeter and through Complex Science Consulting, I can offer consulting services in tasks such as sentiment analysis and stance detection over online social media, lexicon-based emotional profiling, cognitive modelling of mindset changes in populations of learners, and detection of distorted mindsets via language processing and AI in populations with mental health disorders.

Data-driven approaches to Education

Big Data and complex networks are powerful tools for modelling learning performance within and outside the classroom. These innovative approaches can open new innovative ways of pursuing Education that are effective in fighting functional illiteracy, i.e. the critical inability to interpret and understand everyday pieces of information such as bills or newspapers.

I am actively involved in designing and performing new data-driven approaches for education, aimed at improving the appreciation and usage of STEM subjects in synergy with schools, researchers and educators. If interested, please read about our computational approach with forma mentis networks for reconstructing STEM perceptions in students and professionals.

Invited Talk at CRI Paris
I gave an invited talk at the CRI – Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires on November 5. It was my first talk in my new position. I talked about cognitive network science and multidisciplinary approaches for reading how people perceive real-world events and experiences, either in educational context or over online platforms and social media. My talk is available online on Youtube.

Hello World! – New Position
As a young academic, I started a new position as Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Exeter. The Department of Computer Science is relatively young but has been steadily growing in the last few years and it is attracting more and more interdisciplinary researchers interested in data science, computer science and a variety of other disciplines, including urban systems, geography, maths, psychology and the humanities.

A special issue on cognitive network science led by Dr. Stella, CSC, and Dr. Kenett, Uni of Pennsylvania
Complex Science Consulting firmly believes in the need for publishing research data science about cognition and networks. Dr. Stella and Dr. Kenett will be Guest Editors on a special issue about cognitive network science and knowledge modelling for Big Data and Cognitive Computing:

A pre-print about forma mentis networks and professional growth
Complex Science Consulting’s mission includes also the development of innovative approaches Education and Innovation. Forma mentis networks successfully highlighted changes in the mindsets of individuals undergoing a summer job experience:

Complexity Explained – Research dissemination presented at CCS 2019
Complex Science Consulting contributed to the initiative Complexity Explained, a joint effort for promoting complexity science led by Prof. Hiroki Sayama and Dr. Manlio De Domenico. CSC provided network analysis that identified key concepts of complex systems from text data and helped with writing the booklet:

New pre-print about forma mentis networks and STEM perception
Complex Science Consulting’s mission includes also the development of innovative approaches to STEM Education. Forma mentis networks are the latest innovative framework suggested by an international collaboration led by Dr. Stella and whose technical report is available here:

Published a first-author PNAS paper about social bots
The investigation of the mental lexicons of social bots and human users on Twitter during the Catalan Referendum has been published on PNAS. The paper, a collaboration of Dr. Massimo Stella with Prof. Emilio Ferrara, University of Southern California, and Dr. Manlio De Domenico, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, adopts techniques from cognitive network science and machine learning.

Published extended abstract on Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Together with Dr. Castro from the Georgia Institute of Technology we published a peer-reviewed extended abstract about our multiplex network approach for predicting picture naming performance in people with aphasia on Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Talk at the Academy of Aphasia Annual Meeting 2018
The research of the Flagship Project on human cognition and its diseases will be presented as an oral presentation at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Aphasia, 21-23 October 2018, Canada.

Talk at Complex Systems in Education Symposium 2018
By using semantic network analysis, my colleagues and I investigated how scientists perceive the science of complex systems. Our results were presented as an oral presentation at the Complex Systems in Education symposium by Prof. Hiroki Sayama.

New Multiplex Network Paper Published
My data-driven research about multi-level mental shortcuts and word priming was published in the special issue on Cognitive Network Science of Complexity, a Q1 peer-reviewed journal in Complexity Science.

Invited talk at the NASER workshop, University of Helsinki, September 17-18 2019
Dr. Stella by Complex Science Consulting presented the outcomes of the international collaboration with forma mentis networks at the Networks Applied in Science Education workshop, University of Helsinki.

Paper published on Big Data and Cognitive Computing
Another publication by Complex Science Consulting about using cognitive data and networks for predicting creativity levels. Collaboration with Dr. Yoed Kenett, University of Pennsylvania – Open Access Paper available here

Paper published on the Journal of Complex Networks
Another publication by Complex Science Consulting about using cognitive data and networks for understanding performance in picture naming in clinical populations affected by aphasia, a cognitive disease. Collaboration with Dr. Nichol Castro, University of Washington. Paper here:

Research talk at Links, Lecce on December 3 2018
Complex Science Consulting presented SentiMental and its features for natural language processing at Links, Lecce.

SentiMental – Automatic Emotional Profiling by CSC
The development of SentiMental, a tool for automatic emotional profiling and semantic analysis of text, reached version 0.1. The documentation reporting the features of SentiMental has been published on the Open Science Foundation repository and is available here.

Talk accepted at Complenet 2019
Our ecological multiplex project was accepted for an oral presentation at the Complenet conference in Tarragona, 18-21 March 2019. The main output of the project is a paper published on eLife that can be found here.

Editor for the Proceedings of NetSciEd 2018 – Published Online
Last year I joined the NetSciEd initiative for the organisation of a symposium about network science and Education. I edited the booklet of abstracts, which is now available online on the Open Science repository.

Next Winter Workshop on Complex Systems
As a member of the Steering Committee for the Winter Workshop on Complex Systems I am helping with next years’ edition, which will be hosted in Zakopane, Poland. Applications are open until October 31, apply now!

New International Collaborations for Complex Forma Mentis
Complex Forma Mentis is an outreach/research project aimed at understanding and improving the perception students have about STEM subjects. Dr. Cynthia S. Q. Siew and Prof. Aleksandra Aloric joined the project in September.

Talk about multilayer network models at the Conference on Complex Systems 2018
Our work on ecological multiplex networks was presented at the Conference on Complex Systems 2018 as an oral presentation by Dr. Alberto Antonioni.

Hello World! – New website
The new website for Complex Science Consulting has been launched!


Get in Touch

If you are interested in working together, as a prospective student or collaborator, please send me an email.

Contacts Here