August 27, 2020

The story, and the science, behind BU’s COVID-19 dashboard

On August 17, Boston University began posting the results of its university-wide coronavirus testing program on a public-facing dashboard. Visitors to the site can now instantly see how many tests BU has performed in the past day or the past week, the total number of positive, negative, or invalid cases recorded, the overall percentage of positive cases at BU in comparison to the city of Boston and the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and more.

The type of computing power required to drive BU’s model is huge. Bulekova and the team make use of a vast computer network that resides 90 miles west of Boston, in Holyoke, Mass. Known as the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC), its computational network is made up of hundreds of thousands of processors—spread across 10,000 computers—that work together to solve data-rich mathematical problems that wouldn’t be possible on individual devices. The MGHPCC is a collaborative research tool supported and used by BU, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts, as well as the state government and members of private industry. It’s also funded by the National Science Foundation and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.