John Meluso, PhD

OCEAN Postdoctoral Fellow at the Vermont Complex Systems Center

Computational Social Scientist and Mixed Methodologist studying Organizations, Communication, Diversity, and Design as Complex Systems. Primary strengths include agent-based modeling, network science, interviewing, and surveying.


PhD, University of Michigan, 2020
MS, University of Michigan, 2017
BS, Cornell University, 2014

Description of Research

Whether we study organization design, product quality, or diversity, we can best make sense of how micro-level communication yields macro-level organizational outcomes through systems theory—a body of inquiry at the intersection of organizational theory, communication studies, sociology, and complex systems. My research integrates techniques from these disciplines to answer: How do unintended consequences emerge from communication networks? And how can we leverage systems theory to improve outcomes? My work uncovers patterns of organizational communication in practice using a mixed method approach that combines semi-structured interviews with surveys. Informed by such patterns, I simulate how networked communication affects organizational outcomes by constructing agent-based models (ABMs). Together, these methods form a powerful suite of tools for understanding and improving organizations. For ex-ample, my recent studies of a Fortune 500 firm used this approach to identify a consequential case of strategic communication in a new product development process that degrades organizational performance. From this insight, my current work demonstrates novel network structure limits to the benefits of strategic ambiguity with implications for theory and practice. In another project, I show that networked socialization processes sustain toxic organizational cultures that bolster the glass ceiling; however, my findings also imply solutions for breaking through. In future work, I plan to build on these studies by examining how systems concepts like feedback affect organizations; exploring organizational forms and interventions that benefit diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizational outcomes; and initiating a theory of complex product development processes.

Postdoctoral Advisors

  • James Bagrow, Associate Professor of Mathematics & Statistics, University of Vermont

  • Laurent Hébert-Dufresne, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, University of Vermont

Dissertation Committee

  • Jesse Austin-Breneman (advisor), Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

  • Jose Uribe (co-advisor), Assistant Professor of Management & Organizations

  • Scott Page, John Seely Brown Distinguished University Professor of Complexity, Social Science, and Management

  • Lynette Shaw, Assistant Professor of Complex Systems


  1. Meluso, J., Austin-Breneman, J., Bagrow, J., Hébert-Dufresne, L. (In Review). A Review & Framework for Modeling Complex Engineered System Development Processes.

  2. Meluso, J., Hébert-Dufresne, L., Bagrow, J., & Razzante, R. (In Press). “Masculinity Contest Cultures and Inclusive Cultures: Insights From an Agent-Based Model of Organizational Socialization and Promotion.” in Research on Social Issues in Management. Vol. 3, The Future of Diversity & Inclusion, edited by E. B. King, Q. M. Roberson, and M. Hebl.

  3. Meluso, J., Johnson, S., & Bagrow, J. (Revise & Resubmit). Flexible Environments for Hybrid Collaboration: Redesigning Virtual Work Through the Four Orders of Design.

  4. Carnahan, S., Uribe, J., Meluso, J., & Austin-Breneman, J. (Working Paper). "Do Employee Absences Help Managers Evaluate Individual Contributions to Team Production? Evidence from Plant Productivity Data".

  5. Meluso, J., Austin-Breneman, J., & Uribe, J. (2019). "Estimate Uncertainty: Miscommunication About Definitions of Engineering Terminology." Journal of Mechanical Design.

  6. Meluso, J., Austin-Breneman, J., and Shaw, L. (2019). “An Agent-Based Model of Miscommunication in Complex System Engineering Organizations,” IEEE Systems Journal, pp. 1–12.

  7. Meluso, J., & Austin-Breneman, J. (2018). "Gaming the System: An Agent-Based Model of Estimation Strategies and their Effects on System Performance". Journal of Mechanical Design, 140(12), 121101–121109.