Gasser’s grant lays groundwork for student success

A project led by iSchool Professor Les Gasser, "Simulating Social Systems at Scale (SSS)," has laid the groundwork for a prestigious award to a student researcher. Santiago Núñez-Corrales, an Informatics PhD student directed by Gasser, was recently chosen from among several hundred applicants to receive an ACM SIGHPC/Intel Computational & Data Science Fellowship, worth $15,000 per year for at least three years. 

Gasser's SSS project, which earned a 2016-2017 Faculty Fellowship from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), demonstrates new approaches to building very large computer models of social phenomena such as social change, the emergence of organizations, and the evolution of language and information. The project also explores new ways of connecting "live" social data to running simulations and new ways of visualizing social processes.

Núñez-Corrales is working on multidisciplinary problems in the project with three elements: (1) discrete event simulations that are too large and complex to compute complete solutions with available computing resources; (2) simulation elements that can be combined, condensed, or eliminated stochastically; and (3) specific driving applications that are very large data-driven models of social systems. He is also developing a novel method for comparing content of simulations based on "spectral analysis" of the simulation activity. 

"Research like this requires the ability to draw together knowledge from many disciplines including simulation, statistical physics, stochastic computing, and domain issues such as modeling social or biological structures and their evolution dynamics. Santiago has the fluency in all of these arenas to be able to synthesize novel solutions that push the state of the art, and this had a direct impact on his success," Gasser said.

Gasser has a joint appointment in the Department of Computer Science and faculty affiliate appointments in the Computational Science and Engineering program and the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois. He also holds a faculty appointment in the Institute for Software Research at the University of California, Irvine. He has published over seventy technical papers and five books on the topics of social informatics and multi-agent systems.

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