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Science in Parallel

Oct 26, 2022

Science in Parallel’s season two concludes with a conversation about answering important questions in biology and medicine with leadership class supercomputers, including urgent issues that came up during the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll hear from Anda Trifan of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Amanda Randles of Duke University.

Starting as a chemist, Anda is completing a Ph.D. in biophysics and quantitative biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she has studied molecular strategies that make certain cells turn cancerous. In early 2020, she joined an Argonne National Laboratory team that pivoted to working on the pandemic, and she modeled how SARS-CoV-2 infects cells, how it replicates and how it spreads through aerosols.

Amanda is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University with roots in physics and computer science. Much of her work now focuses on large-scale simulations of how blood flows through a person’s unique network of vessels. During the pandemic, her team applied their expertise to calculations that could help physicians figure out how to split ventilators between patients who weren’t exact matches, a critical problem in early 2020 when these devices were in short supply.

Both Anda and Amanda completed Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowships. Between them, they have worked on a total of five projects that have been finalists for either the ACM Gordon Bell Prize or the Special Prize for COVID-19 research. Adding to the excitement of their pandemic work: They both navigated the at-home adventure of raising very young children during lockdown. They talk about what drives them, the challenge of working at the cutting edge of HPC and biology and medicine, and their advice for other researchers, particularly other women in science.