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Explorations in Science and Technology

Advancing Real Science via Simulations


Infectious diseases. Global warming. The world economy. All are immensely important, and knowledge of all three can be advanced through computer simulation.

Advancing knowledge about complex systems like the world economy is the goal of Pitt’s Center for Simulation and Modeling (SAM). With the help of more and ever-faster microprocessors, researchers from all over the University are asking essential questions that would have been impossible to address computationally as recently as 10 years ago.

Computational chemistry professor Ken Jordan codirects SAM with chemical engineering professor Karl Johnson. Jordan uses simulations to study the electronic structures of molecules and surfaces and the thermal properties of gasses. Johnson and his colleagues use computational modeling to understand the basic physics of carbon dioxide. They hope that the materials they help to design will one day be used to slow global climate change.

Dean of the Graduate School of Public Health Donald Burke uses computer simulation to predict and prevent infectious diseases, rather than trying to control them after the fact. 

Lillian Chong, assistant professor of chemistry, uses simulations to study protein dynamics. Chong studies natively unfolded proteins—so named for their seemingly disordered structure—which include a protein called tumor suppressor p53, thought to play a role in cancer.