Researcher to track spread of disease, malware and power outages

February 4, 2010
Researcher to track spread of disease, malware and power outages
Anil Vullikanti, an assistant professor with Virginia Tech department of computer science and a member of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, is developing mathematical framework that can track the spread of pandemics among populations and malware across wireless computer networks, as well as how a blackout occurring on one major power grid can cause a cascade of additional neighboring networks to fail. Credit: Virginia Tech Photo

An assistant professor with the Virginia Tech College of Engineering has won a $750,000 federal grant to formulate a mathematical framework that can track the spread of pandemics among populations and malware across wireless computer networks, as well as how a blackout occurring on one major power grid can cause a cascade of additional neighboring networks to fail.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Early Career Principal Investigator program, the five-year grant was awarded to Anil Vullikanti, an assistant professor with Virginia Tech department of computer science and a member of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.

He will design by computer a unified mathematical framework with an eye toward preventing future pandemics such as the recent H1NI flu virus and the 1918 that is said to have killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, as well as malware/ attacks, and mass network disasters akin to the so-called Northeast Blackout of 2003 that left 10 million Canadians and 45 million U.S. residents in eight states without power.

"Many of these processes can be viewed as compositions of simpler diffusion processes, and this project is to study these fundamental processes and develop a framework for their compositions," Vullikanti said. Just as, say, a family member sickened by a she came in contact with in Army basic training or an overseas business trip can return home and sicken her family and friends, who in turn sicken co-workers and neighbors, computer viruses and power grid failures spread fast and wide by proximity.

Vullikanti's methods are expected to detect vulnerabilities and improve robustness in the areas of health care, computer networking and power grid controls, in order to address key concerns for health care workers, computer industry personnel and various policy planners. He also will develop realistic models and scalable, efficient simulation tools for understanding diffusion processes within complex network systems vital to the Department of Energy.

The main challenges of the project include the huge variability in the scales and unstructured properties of the kinds of networks that arise and limited real data and models, Vullikanti said. "We will use both theoretical and large scale simulation based methods to address the challenges of complex networks," he added.

The Career Principal Investigator grant is given to faculty in the early stages of their academic profession in the fields of applied mathematics, computer science, computational science and high-performance networks, bolstering the nation's scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

This grant comes after Vullikanati won a National Science Foundation CAREER award a year ago for his work on Cognitive Radio Networks (CRNs). Funded at $450,000 for a five-year period, the research focuses on theoretical foundations of CRNs, which increase the spectrum utilization by opportunistically allowing unlicensed users to transmit on licensed bands without intruding on the users who are licensed. The proposed study included research on cross-layer optimization problems in such networks using a more realistic model of interference.

Explore further: New Way of Connection: 'Grid Computing' to Solve Insoluble

Related Stories

Securing America's power grid

June 27, 2006

Terrorists attack Colombia's electrical grid hundreds of times a year. What's to stop attacks on America's power lines? An Iowa State University research team led by Arun Somani, chair and Jerry R. Junkins professor of electrical ...

UCR Studying Self-Organizing Smart Wireless Networks

November 30, 2006

For wireless multihop networks to be used by thousands, the network has to be able to self-organize, which is what University of California, Riverside researchers are developing at the Bourns College of Engineering.

Dartmouth researchers help secure the power grid

January 26, 2010

Dartmouth researchers are part of the national Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid team that has been awarded a five-year $18.8 million grant from the US Department of Energy with contributions from the US ...

Recommended for you

Early human diet explains our eating habits

August 31, 2015

Much attention is being given to what people ate in the distant past as a guide to what we should eat today. Advocates of the claimed palaeodiet recommend that we should avoid carbohydrates and load our plates with red meat ...

Just how good (or bad) is the fossil record of dinosaurs?

August 28, 2015

Everyone is excited by discoveries of new dinosaurs – or indeed any new fossil species. But a key question for palaeontologists is 'just how good is the fossil record?' Do we know fifty per cent of the species of dinosaurs ...

Fractals patterns in a drummer's music

August 28, 2015

Fractal patterns are profoundly human – at least in music. This is one of the findings of a team headed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen and Harvard University ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.