MICDE funds wide-ranging computational discovery in galactic formation, drug discovery, bacterial biofilm colonies and turbulence simulations

By | News, Research

Since 2017 the Michigan Institute for Computational Discovery & Engineering (MICDE) Catalyst Grants program has funded a wide spectrum of cutting-edge research that combines science, engineering, mathematics and computer science. This year the program will fund four new projects that continue this tradition: Prof. Aaron Frank (Chemistry) and his group will spearhead efficient strategies to rapidly develop treatments for emerging diseases– a need made more compelling by the current COVID-19 Pandemic. Their approach combines generative artificial intelligence models and molecular docking to rapidly explore the space of chemical structures and generate target-specific virtual libraries for drug discovery. Prof. Marisa Eisenberg (Epidemiology, Mathematics, and Complex Systems) and Prof. Alexander Rickard’s (Epidemiology) groups will develop novel computational techniques to study biofilm architectures.  Biofilms are complex assemblages of microbial cells that form on almost any natural and man-made surface. They cause several debilitating diseases, and can even damage machinery and equipment, elevating the understanding of their behaviour to a critical need. Prof. Oleg Gnedin (Astronomy) will develop novel techniques to tailor the mathematical initial conditions from which to simulate chosen regions of the universe. The resulting insights will help uncover the origins of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Finally, Prof. Aaron Towne (Mechanical Engineering) will advance the modeling of complex, turbulent flows and other large-scale systems in engineering science. His research will enable orders of magnitude of acceleration in the computation of extremely large scale flows in a number of engineering systems.

“These four projects have the potential to catalyze and  reorient the directions of their research fields by developing and harnessing powerful paradigms of computational science”, said Krishna Garikipati, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and of Mathematics, and MICDE’s Director. “MICDE’s mission is to lead the advances in computational science research by bringing together interdisciplinary teams at U of M, and these projects embody that vision.” 

More about MICDE’s catalyst grant program and the projects can be found at micde.umich.edu/catalyst.

Fabricio Vasselai wins the Irving Louis Horowitz Award from the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy

By | News

Fabricio Vasselai, a dual Ph. D. candidate in Political Science and Scientific Computing is a recipient of this year’s Horowitz Foundation awards from the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy. His proposal titled “Elections in the AI era: using Machine Learning and Multi-Agent Systems to detect and study menaces to election integrity” won the Irving Louis Horowitz Award, given to the overall most outstanding project of the year, as well as the Joshua Feigenbaum Award as the most outstanding project on Arts, Popular Culture and Mass Communication.

The proposal develops Artificial Intelligence tools to detect and to study threats to election integrity. First, novel Multi-agent simulations of elections (MASE) are derived and implemented to be the data-generating process of synthetic data. Then these data is used to train Supervised Machine Learning (SML) to detect fraud in real election result counts. He uses such ability to create simulated training data to properly bootstrap the SML classifications, allowing for the novel estimation of uncertainty around election fraud detection. He also uses MASE to perform virtual experiments on the spread of fake news, showing that biased misinformation is critical for political polarization to flourish in majoritarian elections.

Fabricio Vasselai is an MICDE Fellow (awarded on 2018), and he is currently a Researcher at U-M’s Center for Political Studies and Center for Complex Systems.

Established in 1998, the Horowitz Foundation awards grants to scholars to assist them in completing their dissertations. It is highly competitive, with less than 3 percent of applicants receiving an award this year.

Microsoft AI for Health Program to support an AI-facilitated Optimization Framework for Improving COVID-19 Testing

By | News, Research

With the recent resurgence of COVID-19 infections, testing has become central to an integrated, global response to the pandemic. Accurate, effective, and efficient testing can lead to early detection and prompt an agile response by public health authorities. Strategic testing systems are critical for providing data that will inform disease prevention, preparation, and intervention. MICDE Associate Director and Associate Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering and of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Siqian Shen, has recently published an article pin-pointing a number of pivotal operations research and industrial engineering tools that can be brought to  the fight against COVID-19. One of the key lessons from her research is the importance of expanding the availability of COVID-19 testing and making the resulting data transparent to the public as anonymized, summary statistics. This enables informed decision making by individuals, public health officials, and governments.  

Based on these high-impact findings, Professor Shen is striding ahead to design a comprehensive COVID-19 testing framework to efficiently serve the urgent needs of diverse population groups . A grant from Microsoft’s AI for Health program, part of the AI for Good initiative, will provide credits to use Microsoft’s Azure service.  With this cyber resource, Professor Shen and her team will integrate and coordinate decision-making models and data analytics tools that they have developed for testing on a Cloud-based platform. In addition, their AI framework is dynamic, and collects daily infection data to improve testing-related decisions. Such a platform could have significant impacts on three major problems that exist with current testing design strategies:

1) Where to locate testing facilities and how to allocate test kits and other resources.
2) How to effectively triage different population groups through effective appointment scheduling.
3) How to visualize real-time testing capacities to better inform the public and serve ad-hoc needs of patients. 

Prof. Shen’s research will integrate AI techniques with optimization to dynamically refine existing testing design methods for gathering and analyzing data from unexplored populations and regions around the globe. The development and refinement of these new models with the support of Microsoft Azure will create a transparent, data-informed testing system that will allow public health and government authorities to make agile, data-driven decisions to aid in the prevention, preparation, intervention, and management of COVID-19 and other outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Siqian Shen is a  Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering, and of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan, an Associate Director of the Michigan Institute for Computational Discovery & Engineering, and an affiliated faculty member in the Michigan Institute for Data Science. Her research group works on both theoretical and applied aspects of problems by combining stochastic programming, integer programming, network optimization,  machine learning and statistics.