Our Mission: A New Evolution in the Study of Life

Where conceptual and technological constraints once forced researchers to examine living systems one small slice at a time, we can now find complex connections ranging from the basic building blocks of life to public policy.

The Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech is at the forefront of this scientific evolution, applying a deeply contextual approach to answer some of the most pressing challenges to human health, habitat, and well-being. Our research is interdisciplinary to its core, integrating methods from the life, cognitive, and social sciences, as well environmental studies and infrastructural development. The institute guides emergency response to epidemics, makes urban infrastructure more sustainable, and accelerates the discovery of treatments for chronic diseases.

We are pioneers in biocomplexity, the study of life and environment as a complex system. A biocomplexity approach analyzes the interactions between many simple components that combine to produce significant effects on the macro scale.  By understanding biology in the context of ecosystems and human-created systems that interact on many levels, we are able to uncover powerful connections between healthcare, security, information networks, and infrastructure.

Our Methods: Collaboratively Created, Computer-Powered

Though diverse in scope and application, the common methodology that underlies all our research is information biology: the synthesis of mathematics, computation, informatics and biology. This approach is driven by two key factors: the diverse, real-world problems that occupy the expertise of our researchers, and a unique, high-performance computing infrastructure.

The complexity and scale of research at the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech demands coordination between experts in many different fields: mathematics, biology, physics, computer science, statistics, psychology and more. Our approach of taking complex problems as they occur in the world requires teaming as a practical necessity. Teaming becomes an organizational philosophy that allows faculty to explore new applications of their various expertise. 

Our organizational capabilities reflect the teaming philosophy at the core of the institute and include a comprehensive research administration structure that supports our researchers with pre- and post-award services and certified project managers for large, complex projects and programs.  These capabilities, as well as more traditional support services, differentiate the institute among academic research programs and enable our researchers to successfully pursue the scientific objectives of the institute.

Analyzing and predicting the behavior of massive systems requires a staggering amount of processing power combined with the most powerful national assets available. Our large-scale, high-performance computing (HPC) infrastructure currently consists of over 500 servers and multiple clusters, totaling more than 4,000 cores and 22TB of RAM. Our combined disk storage systems provide close to 5PB of storage. This technology is in high demand among our government and industry partners and academic collaborators. 

Our Impact: Scientific Solutions for Real-World Problems

One of our strengths is in building tools that predict, explain, and visualize the behavior of massively interacting systems. These tools have a wide range of applications, from accelerating the pace of scientific discovery to helping policymakers make informed decisions under uncertain circumstances, but their development is always driven by a specific set of real-world problems. 

Long-term, collaborative relationships with traditional and non-traditional partners in both the government and private sectors have helped set the direction of our research. Our institute’s HPC infrastructure allows us to work with sponsors and partners in basic research and provide diverse, web-accessible resources so stakeholders can perform data-gathering and processing tasks “in the field.”

The research at the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech is constantly finding new problems and yielding new discoveries and services. Information on our latest projects and media contact information can be found on our news page.

Our Collaboration: Internal and External Partnerships

If you are interested in partnering with the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech, contact Executive Director Cal Ribbens. General information about business operations can also be obtained by contacting our Director of Finance, Kirk Felton.

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