Simulation science is transforming the way we forecast emerging trends and respond to urgent crises. With sufficient data, innovative methods, and the support of a high-performance computing infrastructure, simulations can faithfully replicate real-world conditions for testing in a virtual environment. Scenarios such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, epidemics and pandemics can be analyzed in advance, to support more effective decision-making during actual emergencies.
Established in 2004, early research initiatives in the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL) focused on delivering these decision support systems to partners in the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy, and Health and Human Services. Our initial, 10-person team combined expertise from multiple scientific disciplines to develop analytics toolsets that are both technically sophisticated and user-friendly.
These early successes spurred the development of NDSSL’s powerful “synthetic populations,” demographically representative virtual social networks capable of simulating the movements, relationships, and social interactions of people in large cities and regions. These populations are now nearly global in scale, allowing researchers to perform predictive analyses that target specific cities or span entire continents—all within a matter of seconds.
Support from federal and private agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, National Institute of Health, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has enabled NDSSL to continue expanding its research portfolio and take a leading role in a number of national scientific initiatives. Some prominent examples include the NIAID-funded PATRIC database, which provides scientists with vital genomic data on thousands of bacterial strains, and the NIH-supported MIDAS network, which consolidates infectious disease modeling resources to help predict the spread of major epidemics like Swine Flu and Ebola.
Today, the NDSSL team has grown to include nearly 70 researchers, student scholars and established thought leaders in a wide variety of fields: statistics, public health, computer science, economics, mathematics and complex systems. As a Leading Laboratory in the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech, we continue to drive innovation in six major domains of research and advance our overall mission to make decision support systems more efficient and accessible than ever before.