The Network Dynamic and Simulation Science Laboratory (http://ndssl.vbi.vt.edu/) has been building tools to simulate infectious disease outbreaks for years. Their work has supported federal Pandemic Influenza planning as well as the federal response to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. These simulations are highly detailed, representing every individual in the population and their second-by-second movements and interactions. Performing calculations at this level of detail for populations of millions requires the use of super computers here on campus. Currently their simulations run on “pecos” at the Advanced Research and Computing (http://www.arc.vt.edu/) center and “shadowfax” housed within the Computational Core at VBI (http://www.vbi.vt.edu/ccf/).
Supporting Public Health
When an outbreak is first detected, rapid response is essential. The NDSSL is focused on providing real-time support to the public health officials who have to decide how to direct resources during this critical time. Their tools allow simulations to be customized to any area of the country and be run in a near real-time fashion. It is this advanced capability we are using to simulate the Hokie Fandemic at this Open House. Additional research in the lab has been focused on improving the process of outbreak detection (http://ndssl.vbi.vt.edu/insilicoSurveillance/).
The same cutting-edge simulation software used to support federal public health decision making is being used to simulate the spread of Hokie Fever during the Open House. As each participant is scanned in a computerized representation of them (an agent) is created on the super computer. This agent is then placed into the appropriate location and interacts with the other agents at that location. If there are infectious Hokie Fans in that location, the uninfected agents run the risk of becoming infected. The level of Hokie fandom reported by each individual determines how infectious their “fever” for the Hokies will be once they are infected. The simulations of the population are running in near real-time (every 5 minutes) and the results are being processed and updated through a database and pushed out to the web, so each individual can view the progress of the Fandemic on their mobile devices or at the scanner tables scatter about the various open house locations.
The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (http://www.vbi.vt.edu/) at Virginia Tech is a premier bioinformatics, computational biology, and systems biology research facility that uses transdisciplinary approaches to science combining information technology, biology, and medicine. These approaches are used to interpret and apply vast amounts of biological data generated from basic research to some of today’s key challenges in the biomedical, environmental, and agricultural sciences. With more than 240 highly trained multidisciplinary, international personnel, research at the institute involves collaboration in diverse disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, biology, plant pathology, biochemistry, systems biology, statistics, economics, synthetic biology, and medicine. The large amounts of data generated by this approach are analyzed and interpreted to create new knowledge that is disseminated to the world’s scientific, governmental, and wider communities.
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