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RPI Supercomputer Joins The Fight Against COVID-19


On Sunday, President Trump named Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a member of a new public-private effort to provide computing resources in the fight against COVID-19.

Organizations across the healthcare industry are using AI and data analytics to track and control the impact of COVID-19. 

RPI in Troy is offering the research community access to AiMOS, its Artificial Intelligence Multiprocessing Optimized System, which RPI's Vice President for Information Services and Technolgy John Kolb says has amazing computational capabilities.   "AiMOS is the most powerful supercomputer in a university, a U.S. university. It's rated at about eight, what they call petaflops, or eight quadrillion calculations per second. And to put that in perspective, and this is really one of the things you have to bring to bear first, is really just immense computation is, that's a million calculations per person in the world per second. So if you're going to model something like a pandemic, that's affecting the entire world's population, having something that can do those types of calculations is really important." 

Kolb says AiMOS, located at the Rensselaer Center for Computational Innovations, can process large amounts of data about the virus very quickly.   "And so all of these things require very complex understanding and modeling and folded in with all the data that we can have. And so, this is very important in terms of what kinds of interventions may work, be they antiviral interventions or other pharmacological interventions, or whether it's a vaccine that needs to be developed, clearly. And so that's kind of where we are as well as understanding who really is vulnerable."

RPI President Shirley Jackson adds epidemiological data can uncover a lot about how COVID-19 moves through populations, understanding which populations are most at risk, along with how many people die, and for survivors, the quantity and quality of recovery.   How do you really protect people? And and because the at some point, one wants the economy to get going again, and we've got to have those answers, and no, and this has to go on, probably even in the middle of what we're doing, and where our healthcare workers are doing heroic things. Our researchers are working just as furiously, to help you and and to come up with effective intervention strategies."

Jackson expects faculty, staff and graduates all will have roles in working on the pandemic.  Kolb says creative minds both at RPI and nationwide will be put to the test, modeling the disease, its spread, analyzing its blooms and hotspots and working on a vaccine. "Is it possible to repurpose other drugs and how do you do studies? Can we do studies that simulate those actual studies rather than, you know having to do do them with people, or can we take the ones that are done with people and cross correlate and so on. So, I think there's a lot of creative things that researchers could bring to the table and how do we help enable that."

In December 2019, RPI launched AiMOS for use by public. and private industry partners across New York state.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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