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Derek Cabrera, PhD

Dad, Husband, Scientist, Professor, Mountain Guide, Funhog

DC Headshot 2023

Derek Cabrera, PhD (Cornell), is a distinguished systems theorist and cognitive scientist. In 2021, he was inducted into the International Academy for Systems and Cybernetic Sciences (IASCYS) for his outstanding contributions to the field. At Cornell University, Derek is a faculty member and the Faculty Director for the Graduate Certification Program in Systems Thinking, Modeling, and Leadership (STML). He also oversees the world's largest Systems Thinking Conference.

As the Chief Science Officer at Cabrera Research Lab, Derek leads efforts in basic and applied research in complexity and cognition and promotes public understanding of systems thinking. He serves on the Systems Engineering Advisory Board at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Derek has delivered two TED Talks, holds two US patents, and has authored a rap song and a children's book on cognition. His extensive publications include numerous book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, and ten books, including the award-winning "Systems Thinking Made Simple," "Thinking at Every Desk," and "Flock Not Clock." He co-hosts the popular Cabrera Lab Podcast and has been a Research Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) and an NSF IGERT Fellow in Nonlinear Systems in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics at Cornell University.

Derek's contributions have been recognized with two National Science Foundation Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. He co-edited the "Handbook of Systems Thinking," serves on the editorial board of the journal "Systems," and is the Editor-in-Chief of the "Journal of Systems Thinking." He is renowned for discovering cognitive universals (DSRP Theory) and organizational universals (VMCL Theory). His work is featured in peer-reviewed journals, trade magazines, and popular publications, and documented in the full-length film "RE:Thinking."

Derek has developed online courses for the general public on LinkedIn Learning and eCornell and co-founded Plectica, where he created innovative software applications for systems mapping. As a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow, he advanced systems approaches in STEM evaluation and received the AAC&U's K. Patricia Cross Future Educational Leaders Award. His systems models are utilized in various programs, organizations, and educational institutions, including Silicon Valley companies, Cornell University, the US Military Academy at West Point, special forces, and the US Army War College.

Beyond academia, Derek is an experienced mountain guide and experiential educator, having worked globally with Outward Bound and other organizations since 1988. He remains active in guiding and has a background in the Conservation Corps and Restorative Justice movements. Derek holds a PhD from Cornell University and resides in Ithaca, NY, with his wife, Laura Cabrera, their three children, and their dogs.