Announcing Two Focused Research Programs Focused on Health

The Hariri Institute is excited to announce our next set of Focused Research Programs (FRPs)! These programs are designed to evolve and advance Boston University’s research in computing and data science around areas of strategic importance and emerging opportunity. The Institute facilitates research convergence for these programs by providing support and ‘scaffolding’ for groups to coalesce in sustainable ways, with the goal of accelerating research for future funding and broader impact. Learn more about our FRPs, below.

Simulation Modeling for Population Health

Led by Brenda Heaton, Associate Professor in the Departments of Health Policy & Health Services Research (GSDM) and Epidemiology (SPH) and Wesley Wildman, Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics and the Faculty of Computing and Data Sciences, this FRP aims to foster a multidisciplinary environment of faculty with interests in the application of simulation modeling to population health research and the development of methods used to design, build, validate, and ethically evaluate​ such models.

The FRP was motivated by a desire to move toward more realistic and scalable solutions to public health issues through the application of simulation modeling. “I was met with challenges in identifying collaborators with the necessary expertise and the FRP offered a valuable opportunity to foster a productive multidisciplinary environment around these [modeling] methods at BU,” said Heaton. This program addresses the key challenges faced in applying simulation modeling to population health through strategic partnerships, interdisciplinary collaborations, and the establishment of best practices in simulation modeling. “It is exciting that this could create a pipeline of students feeding into population health simulation research projects, and that this powerful method could be unleashed to the benefit of a lot of people,” said Wildman.

Continuous Analysis of Mobile Health Data among Medically Vulnerable Populations

Led by Nicole Spartano, Research Assistant Professor at the BU School of Medicine, Lisa Quintiliani, Associate Professor at the BU School of Medicine, and Vasiliki Kalavri, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science, this FRP aims to leverage mobile health data sources for developing dynamic models privately in the cloud that predict the development or progression of diseases and anticipate changes in physiology or behavior in large cohort studies and clinical trials among underserved populations.

The FRP plans to bring researchers together who would benefit from a system that allows them to examine and explore new applications of continuous data streams and how they could be applied to their research to create more tailored health promotion programs. Data streams are digitally encoded signals for transmitting information. “We envision a future in which non-expert users, such as doctors, public health advisors, and behavioral scientists, have access to streaming analytics as a service without having to deal with the complexity of managing the stream processing infrastructure,” said Kalavri. Data streams from mobile phones can help with targeting medically vulnerable populations, since phone ownership is expansive across socio-demographic groups. “Data streams could yield new insights that could be integrated with principles of behavioral science to create health promotion programs that are timely and impactful,” said Quintiliani.