Using GillesPy2 to simulate inhalation anthrax

While working on my Computer Science degree, I was invited to participate in an undergraduate research project that allowed me to combine my interest in programming and biology. I converted a predictable, but simplified, model of inhalation anthrax to a model that accounts for the probabilistic nature of biological systems (i.e., deterministic to stochastic). The project was a collaboration between two UNC Asheville professors: Dr. Brian Drawert, Computer Science and Dr. Megan Powell, Mathematics.

Dr. Drawert is a researcher within systems biology, a field that attempts to model and analyze complex biological systems using computational algorithms. He is also the author of GillesPy2, an open-source software project designed to allow scientists to easily create those models and use stochastic simulations to study outcomes.

Dr. Powell specializes in infectious disease dynamics. Her primary research focus is inhalation anthrax, a disease caused by the Bacillus Anthracis bacteria, the same bacteria that was used in several high-profile acts of terrorism in the early 2000s.

By translating Dr. Powell’s deterministic model of inhalation anthrax into the stochastic form used by GillesPy2, we were able to deliver new insights on the model and make improvements to software quality & usability.

The following abstract is from a research paper I wrote for the UNC Asheville Computer Science department detailing the results of our joint research & development project.

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