A Network Science Approach for Controlling Epidemic Outbreaks

Anil Vullikanti
University of Virginia
Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - 1:25pm to 2:25pm
Lind Hall 305

The spread of epidemics is a very complex process, and stochastic diffusion models on networks have been found useful, especially when modeling their spread in large and heterogeneous populations, where individual and community level behaviors need to be represented. A fundamental problem in such models is to understand how to control the spread of an epidemic by interventions such as vaccination (which can be modeled as node removal) and social distancing (which can be modeled as edge removal). A number of heuristics have been studied, such as selecting nodes based on degree and eigenscore. However, rigorous algorithms with approximation guarantees are not well understood, and is the focus of this talk.

We will discuss two approaches for epidemic control from a network science perspective. The first involves reducing the spectral radius of the graph, motivated by a characterization that shows that epidemics in some models die out fast if the spectral radius is below a threshold. We discuss algorithms for this problem and its generalizations. The second approach involves stochastic optimization, using a sample average approximation combined with rounding. We show that this approach gives near optimal solutions in practice, and have interesting structural properties, which might be useful
in finding practical interventions.

Anil Vullikanti is a Professor in the Department. of Computer Science and the Biocomplexity Institute at the University of Virginia. His research interests are in the broad areas of network science, dynamical systems, combinatorial optimization, and distributed computing, and their applications to computational epidemiology and social networks.