Project Description

Predicting the spread of diseases like COVID-19 is both hugely important and immensely difficult. One way we can do it is with simulation modeling: making computer “artificial life” programs with simulated people and viruses and seeing how they interact under different conditions. For this project, you will create and study such programs, and you will explore how they can be used to predict the spread of ideas as well. Basic programming skills (preferably Python) are required. More generally, my research involves using computational models to better understand biological, cognitive, and social systems. These models are sometimes referred to as agent-based models and they sometimes involve using evolutionary algorithms and artificial neural networks. My research is highly interdisciplinary, connecting informatics to biology, neuroscience, and cognitive science. The research project will involve developing and analyzing a computational model of a phenomenon of interest to the student. Given the current state of our world, my preference would be to focus on modeling the spread of infectious diseases, the spread of ideas, and issues to do with racism and social justice and equality. We will start by replicating an existing model in the literature and then we will extend the model in new directions.

Technology or Computational Component

Interested students will participate in all aspects of the research process. The student will be programming in Python to develop a simulation of the spread of ideas and a virus in a population of individuals and to analyze the resulting data from the simulations. In addition to programming skills, this project will involve brainstorming and familiarizing themselves with the literature on a subject of interest.