The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Anil Kumar Vullikanti, an associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering and the Biocomplexity Institute, who develops methods to forecast significant societal events, such as disease outbreaks.
He is a member of the Biocomplexity Institute’s Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory, which integrates informatics, analytics, and large complex system modeling across diverse domains to build synthetic information tools for real-world, stakeholder-defined problems.
Vullikanti studies dynamical systems, wireless networks, social networks, computation epidemiology, and the modeling, simulation, and analysis of socio-technical systems.
His work has been published at international conferences and in journals such as Nature, Journal of the ACM, IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking, SIAM Journal on Computing, and Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Computing.
Vullikanti models complex, interconnected events. For example, he has worked to develop a mathematical framework that can track the spread of pandemics among populations, such as the recent H1N1 flu virus and the 1918 influenza pandemic that is said to have killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.
Similarly, the framework can be applied to the spread of malware across wireless computer networks, or how a blackout occurring on one major power grid can cause a cascade of additional neighboring networks to fail, such as the “Northeast Blackout” of 2003 that left 10 million Canadians and 45 million U.S. residents in eight states without power.
In a highly cited Nature paper in 2004, “Modeling disease outbreaks in realistic urban social networks,” Vullikanti and colleagues used a large-scale simulation framework to analyze several proposed mitigation strategies for smallpox spread. The research showed that outbreaks can be contained by a strategy of targeted vaccination combined with early detection, without resorting to mass vaccination of a population.
Among his interests, he has also studied theoretical foundations of cognitive radio networks, which increase the spectrum utilization by opportunistically allowing unlicensed users to transmit on licensed bands without causing unacceptable interference for the licensed users.
Vullikanti is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award and the Department of Energy’s Early Career award. He received his undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and his Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He was a post-doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, and a Technical Staff Member at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.