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Research > Research Areas  

Transportation ------------------------------------------------------
Research Lead: Dr. Mike Robinson

Transportation researchers seek ways to increase individual and group mobility and safety through the use of modeling and simulation techniques. Research topics include several aspects of transportation, including traffic modeling, transportation network planning, behavioral influences and constraints, aviation safety, maritime operations, logistics and distribution, and training. VMASC researchers work closely with Old Dominion University 's Transportation Research Institute, Maritime Institute, and Ship Maintenance, Operations, and Repair Institute as well as other leading experts to maximize the strength of project teams.

Homeland Security and Military Defense ------------------------------------------------------
Research Lead: Dr. Barry Ezell

The homeland security and military defense applied research area brings high end tier one technical capability to take on the toughest challenges facing our Nation. We have the resources, with people, equipment, facilities, experience, and skill to model, simulate, analyze, and innovative visualization to address critical decision issues and meet the needs of our customers. Areas of interest are in risk analysis that model terrorism, homegrown violent extremist, and natural hazards. Our research area is comprised of risk analysts, operations research systems analysts, project scientists, database and software developers and GIS modelers with broad experience and customers in DoD, DHS, Virginia's Office of Commonwealth Preparedness, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Hampton Roads Planning District commission, and federally funded research and development centers. In addition to quantitative skills, we have considerable experience in group processes, expert elicitation, facilitation, and JCIDS analytic support. For projects that require clearances, we have researchers with appropriate credentials. The homeland security and military defense applied research area looks for opportunities to partner with small companies and large companies, and entrepreneurs. For more information about us, contact Barry Ezell at 757-638-4439 or by email at bezell@odu.edu.

Virtual Environments ------------------------------------------------------
Research Lead: Dr. Yiannis Papelis

Intelligent agents are entities, or actors, that exhibit rudimentary intelligence by observing their surrounding environment and then acting according to various goals. Intelligent agents utilize perception to asses the environment and exhibit goal-directed behavior when pursuing their goals. Agent-based-modeling is a technique that employs interacting intelligent agents to model a system. Research has shown that even relatively simple agent models will yield aggregate complex behaviors while interacting with each other and with their environment. When the complexity of individual agents is increased, it is possible to create models of systems whose complexity far exceeds the capabilities of traditional modeling techniques.

Intelligent agents can be purely virtual or physical. A purely virtual agent operates completely within a virtual environment. Perception is implemented in software by creating interrogations of the virtual environment that reflect physical (i.e., line of sight) as well as cognitive constraints (i.e., cognitive overload). Acting is implemented in software by using traditional continuous system modeling approaches to simulate a physical system whose excitation is provided by the agent (i.e., steering input to a car model), or by directly setting the values of virtual parameters. A physical agent operates in the actual world. Perception is implemented by utilizing sensors such as cameras and lasers that provide information about the surrounding environment to the agent model. Acting is implemented through actuators that directly interact with the environment. Examples of physical agents include unmanned aerial or ground vehicles, and autonomous robots.

Research in the cluster is focused on the techniques associated with developing both virtual and physical intelligent agents, including modeling approaches for developing the virtual environments within which virtual agents operate. Domain specific knowledge is incorporated into both the agent and the environment, yielding highly complex yet realistic simulations that can be used for exploration of new concepts and system approaches. The cluster involves four focus areas, as follows.


Social Sciences ------------------------------------------------------
Research Lead: Dr. John Sokolowski

Social scientists work closely with traditional methods of modeling such as statistical modeling - a method for the discovery and interpretation of patterns in large numbers of events; formal modeling - a method that provides a rigorous analytic specification of the choices actors can make and how those choices interact to produce outcomes, and agent-based modeling, a method allowing for the observation of aggregate behaviors that emerge from the interactions of large numbers of autonomous actors. VMASC's Social Sciences research facilitates research opportunities between M&S researchers at VMASC and liberal arts faculty as a way to enhance social sciences traditional modeling and analysis capacity. This is done by integrating modeling, simulation, and visualization as a tool to expand and communicate qualitative data.

Engaging modeling and simulation into an empirical analysis allows one to better understand the "what happened" and to explore the "what if." Social Scientists are integral to solving complex problems as more and more emphasis is being placed on modeling qualitative analysis alongside the quantitative data. This is important to fully grasp the history, culture, politics, economics, and social mores of a society. To do this, one must integrate various applications of modeling, simulation, and visualization into the research as a way to expand and communicate the qualitative analysis of the subject area and provide a much denser schematic for the model.

M&S Interoperability ------------------------------------------------------
Research Lead: Dr. Saikou Diallo

This track focuses on the development and application of theories and methodologies in order to solve interoperability problems that cut across M&S domains. The track works closely with professionals in industry, government and academia in order to apply theoretical findings into products that reach a wide user base.

The ability to connect heterogeneous systems remains a great challenge whether we are dealing with legacy systems or integrating new solutions into existing capabilities. This is especially true in Modeling and Simulation (M&S) because every model is a purposeful simplification of reality that addresses a given problem and interoperating M&S solutions requires solving issues ranging from the technical connectivity of simulations to the conceptual composition of models.

Medicine & Health Care ------------------------------------------------------
Research Lead: Dr. Andrea Parodi

The medical and health care modeling and simulation cluster has identified four areas in which we have expertise, specifically, the use of M&S for training, treatment, disease modeling, and the management of health care systems. The applied research area consists of researchers from VMASC and ODU, area universities and health care systems. We have identified problems effecting medicine and health care, in which we have interests to implement modeling and simulation. In the area of training, researchers at ODU have developed a fully immersive Virtual Operating Room outfitted with a simulated patient and both real and simulated instruments. The system is designed to provide training for members of surgical teams using both real and virtual team members. Researchers are also applying M&S knowledge and expertise to reduce errors and improve safety practices in the area of Labor and Delivery. Efforts have been aimed at improving the identification and presentation of critical events embedded in maternal-fetal heart rate tracings. In addition, M&S technology is being used to augment training with standardized patients (i.e., individuals who realistically portray patients used to teach and assess communication and other clinical skills). A stethoscope has been developed that allows the learner to hear abnormal heart and lung sounds when placed on a normal, healthy standardized patient.

The treatment focus area of the research focuses on using M&S for rehabilitation, for improving the diagnosis and treatment of orthopedic injuries and disorders and to optimize physical performance. Researchers at ODU are developing and validating a patient specific model of the hind foot that will be used to optimize treatment in foot and ankle injuries. Researchers are also using modeling and simulation to develop a physical performance prediction model that will be used to identify when additional physical training is necessary and what type of training is necessary for an individual to perform their job. Current applications to this model will be implemented in the military. Finally, our researchers have developed a virtual reality based rehabilitation system for the treatment of patients with hemipareis as a result of stroke. A pilot study has show improvements in all patients treated with this system.

System Sciences ------------------------------------------------------
Research Lead: Dr. Rafael Diaz

A large number of disciplines and domains have successfully employed M&S along with optimization tools to design, modify, or improve analyses and solutions. In most cases, researchers and analysts report substantial benefits from using these advanced methods to discover and analyze complex issues. At VMASC, the System Science applied research area supports disciplines and domains by providing specialized knowledge in advanced M&S and optimization tools that capture and process intricacies associated with complex behaviors. This research area employs simulation techniques to model, analyze, and build innovative solutions and frameworks that increase the leverage of information and knowledge used to learn and forecast complex behaviors.

Four recent simulation studies developed at VMASC include:

  • Using a system dynamics model to understand and project the impact of interventions for chronic disease management
  • Quantifying the effects of remediation and containment policy options to mitigate the impact of sea level rise on the public health
  • A simulation model for determining and forecasting ambulatory healthcare demand
  • Determining the impact of extreme natural events on vulnerable populations

Advanced Operations Research and Management Sciences methods, with focus on System Dynamics, Agent-Based Simulation, Monte Carlo, Discrete-Event Simulation, Mathematical Programming, and Simulation-based Optimization models are used as core techniques to analyze and evaluate Public Health, Healthcare, Transportation & Healthcare Economics, Production & Scheduling, Services, as well as Military Decision-Making.


Game-based Learning
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Research Lead: TBD

Many people who are younger than 40 grew up on video and computer games and have great affections with electronic games. Even the elder generations start to like games due to the immense user interactions introduced in the latest game consoles, such as Nintendo Wii. The entertainment, challenges, and excitement provided by electronic games make them so engaging. Research has shown that games can be utilized as effective tools to motivate the learners for educational and learning purposes if designed properly. The vision of the game-based learning cluster is to be an important and leading player in research and development of educational games in the United States and in the world. The research area teaches game development theories and technologies, develops educational games, and promotes the use of games for educational and training purposes. We engage with academic, government, and industry partners, provide forum and facilitation for coordination, and actively seek funding from federal, state, and local agencies as well as industries. The game-based learning research area is composed of researchers with backgrounds and expertise in computer science, computer engineering, education, psychology, art and modeling, and user interactions. It is especially interested in and actively developing applications in the following areas:

  • K-12 education, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, history, biology, geography, etc.
  • College education, especially STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
  • Medical applications, such as surgical training, instrument training, patient recovery, etc.
  • Public education, such as historical events and modern events simulation in museums.
  • Training, such as driving simulation, mechanic training, business policy and procedures, etc.
  • Applications for people with special needs, such as wheelchair training.
  • Utilization of a wide variety of computing platforms, including personal computers, game consoles (e.g., Xbox 360), virtual environments, PDAs, multimedia devices such as Apple iPhone and Microsoft Zune player, web-based gaming, etc.
  • Utilization of latest gaming technologies, such as Microsoft XNA Game Studio, Delta3D, OpenSceneGraph, Game Maker, Flash, etc.
  • Micro games that can be deployed and played quickly in order to teach a specific concept or technique.