BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 11, 2011 – Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer is known as an aggressive leader of his players. But during the University Open House on Saturday, Nov. 12, he’ll be a different type of leader as he plays the source of “Hokie Fever,” a fun way to show how easily and quickly an infectious disease can spread.
Stephen Eubank and his team in the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, designed the epidemic simulation and first put it into practice while studying an actual influenza outbreak that had the potential of becoming an epidemic.
The game teaches students about potential disasters due to infectious illnesses. However, Eubank says his ultimate goal in studying disease contagion is to influence government policy and decisions in dealing with possible epidemics.
Open house attendees on the Blacksburg campus can join the “fandemic” by picking up a bracelet with a unique barcode at designated locations across campus. Each participant’s barcode will be scanned into the system. The bracelet wearers will be encouraged to spread Hokie Fever throughout the event and to scan in wherever they encounter a scanning station.
The data will be fed into the institute’s new situation awareness room where it will document and track the developing network of infected Hokies across campus.
When participants visit the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, they can learn whether they’ve caught Hokie Fever, how the fandemic has spread, the home locations of carriers, and how many degrees of separation they are from Beamer as the source.
Eubank first used the model of disease spread while investigating possible outcomes of an H1N1 influenza — swine flu, outbreak. In 2010, he put the simulation to use as a teaching tool at USA Science and Engineering Expo 2010, which was held on the capitol mall in Washington, D.C.
Throughout the Virginia Tech open house, participants will have chances to win prizes and take tours of the institute's facilities.
The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech is a premier bioinformatics, computational biology, and systems biology research facility that uses transdisciplinary approaches to science combining information technology, biology, and medicine. These approaches are used to interpret and apply vast amounts of biological data generated from basic research to some of today’s key challenges in the biomedical, environmental, and agricultural sciences. With more than 240 highly trained multidisciplinary, international personnel, research at the institute involves collaboration in diverse disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, biology, plant pathology, biochemistry, systems biology, statistics, economics, synthetic biology, and medicine. The large amounts of data generated by this approach are analyzed and interpreted to create new knowledge that is disseminated to the world’s scientific, governmental, and wider communities.