Bryan Lewis, Srini Venkatramanan, and Jiangzhuo Chen

Biocomplexity Institute Researchers Recognized with UVA Public Service Award

A research team from the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute was recognized with the UVA Provost’s Office Award for Collaborative Excellence in Public Service. As representatives of the Biocomplexity Institute’s COVID-19 Response Team, Jiangzhuo Chen, Bryan Lewis, and Srini Venkatramanan were recognized for their service to the University, the Commonwealth of Virginia and federal authorities during the pandemic, and which continues today.

This award recognizes diverse departments and disciplines who demonstrate the greatest collaborative impact on societal wellbeing in a particular area or community and who have pursued that wellbeing together with students. The public service award selection committee of the UVA Provost’s Office includes members of the Charlottesville community, as well as UVA faculty.

As representatives of the Biocomplexity Institute’s COVID-19 Response Team, Chen, Lewis, and Venkatramanan directed scientific activity of the Institute into sustained, high intensity, public service for the Commonwealth of Virginia and various U.S. national agencies, including the Department of Defense.

From March 2020 to present, the team has served the Virginia Governor’s Office and the Secretary of Health, Secretary of Education, Director of Emergency Management by providing custom statewide analytic products directly to the Secretaries and other Virginia Department of Health officials multiple times per week. Early work done by the team led to the decision by the state officials not to build field hospitals in Northern Virginia potentially saving millions of dollars for the state.

In a letter to the COVID-19 Response Team, Lilian Peake, MD, MPH, Virginia State Epidemiologist said,

“The UVA Biocomplexity Institute developed a useful model despite the uncertain conditions and improved it continuously as new data and research have become available, including Virginia specific calibrations. Additionally, the team has been responsive and available, providing presentations and explanations to multiple stakeholder groups. The UVA team’s projections and expertise have been an integral part of VDH’s response.”

In addition to Jiangzhuo Chen, Bryan Lewis, and Srini Venkatramanan, members of the COVID-19 Response Team include: (in alphabetical order): Abhijin Adiga, Aniruddha Adiga, Chris Barrett, Golda Barrow, Parantapa Bhattacharya, Stephen Eubank, Baltazar Espinoza, Galen Harrison, Stefan Hoops, Ben Hurt, Gursharn Kaur, Brian Klahn, Dustin Machi, Achla Marathe, Madhav Marathe, Zakaria Mehrab, Sifat Moon, Henning Mortveit, Mark Orr, Joseph Outten, Akhil Peddireddy, Przemyslaw Porebski, Erin Raymond, Samarth Swarup, Anil Vullikanti, James Walke, Lijing Wang, Andrew Warren, Amanda Wilson, Dawen Xie, and Young Yun (Hanna) Baek.

The Collaborative Excellence in Public Service award also recognized the team’s effort to create an experiential learning environment for students during the pandemic. This provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to be included in a critical response effort, said Chris Barrett, Executive Director at the Biocomplexity Institute.

“Students working in large teams and problems of global consequence learned how real-time epidemic science is done. They were exposed to a transdisciplinary team science environment. Apart from being exposed to important state-of-the-art technical concepts in computing, epidemiology, data science, social and behavioral sciences, and statistics and mathematics, students also learned how to work on real-world policy questions. Work done during these 22 months taught them how to balance scientific rigor with timely results and analysis.”