Simulating real-life networks

India is a leader in IT. But how do researchers here apply the science to improve people’s lives? Malay Bhattacharyya, assistant professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Kalyani, West Bengal, received this year’s young scientist award in the “Information and Communication Science & Technology”ÔÇêcategory at the Indian Science Congress held in Jammu. He talks to Vibha Varshney about his work. Edited excerpts

Published: Saturday 15 March 2014

imnageHow would your work help people?
The focus of my research is on modelling real-life networks and understanding how people (and other entities) interact with each other. All interactions between entities in real life can be defined as networks. These can be social interactions on Facebook, scientific collaborations in publishing research, share trading in stock market and interaction between genes. Such computer models have a lot of applications. For example, we can use the network to identify fraudulent stock exchange traders who are increasing the value of their stocks by selling among each other. We can also use the network to understand the interaction between genes which lead to diseases like cancer.

In our work, we have quantified the interaction. By formally assigning values to the strength of interactions, we attempt to searchÔÇêexhaustively connected portions in these networks. Each interaction has a different strength (strength is nothing but giving weightage to an interaction, which could be weak or strong, so there should be some quantification). Weak interactions create noise in a system and mask the important interactions. The values for the interaction help us identify crucial interactions by eliminating the noise. Finding this helps identify highly interacting groups.

How you intend to take the work forward?
As long as a real-life activity is representable as a network, we can find important information in the network. I am already working on biological systems, on protein-protein interaction between HIV and humans, and also on microRNA interaction networks in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. I hope to find many relevant biomarkers from disease-specific networks.

People are the driving power of India. The better we understand them and their activities, the quicker we will realise the power (or weakness) of our nation.

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