New computer cluster drives rapid output for public health strategies

Faculty of Science Professor Seyed Moghadas with his new cluster of high capacity computers, the first of their kind at York University

Professor Seyed Moghadas in the Faculty of Science has acquired some flashy hardware for his lab. The hardware is a cluster of high-capacity computers – the first of their kind at York University – that can perform mathematical simulations at high speeds.

“These computers can do in a few hours or days what a regular computer would need months or years to do,” says Moghadas, who is based in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics.

Moghadas’s research program develops state-of-the-art agent-based simulation models that can be used to inform public health policies on how to reduce the social and economic burden of infectious diseases. His research is important in the event of an outbreak such as influenza or emerging pathogens like SARS, when policy makers strive to make informed decisions about how to control or prevent disease spread under substantial uncertainty.

For instance, during an outbreak, public health officials sometimes need to make quick decisions about vaccines, medications, quarantine and personal protective equipment, among other strategies, and deciding which ones would be the most successful and cost-effective can be difficult.

With the new computer cluster in his Agent-Based Modelling Laboratory, Moghadas and his team can now run simulations in real-time and perform Big Data Analytics to help inform those strategies in a timely manner. During an epidemic, this could mean more lives saved and fewer incidences of illness and hospitalization, not to mention the resulting economic benefits.

The new computer cluster was funded by a Canadian Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund.

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