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VMASC Researchers Offer Multidisciplinary Perspective in First Textbook About Modeling and Simulation

Two Old Dominion University faculty members have achieved a worldwide first - taking the modern, mystifying field of modeling and simulation and explaining it in a form that non-scientists and non-engineers can understand.

The first ever textbook in the field, "Principles of Modeling and Simulation - A Multidisciplinary Approach," was written and edited by two ODU professors, John Sokolowski and Catherine Banks.

There have been technical books written about the emerging field, which involves the creation of computer simulations and models to test experimental concepts without constructing expensive prototypes.

But Sokolowski, director of research at ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), said this book is different because it offers a multidisciplinary perspective.

"The previous books, and there really aren't that many, have been focused on a much more technical treatment of the subject, suitable to science and engineering majors," he said.

The idea for the textbook came from Sokolowski and Banks' belief that non-science and non-engineering students should be introduced to the modeling and simulation field, because it has proven to be a useful tool across many disciplines.

"The modeling and simulation field as a discipline is just now being accepted," said Banks, assistant professor of research at VMASC. "Experts in many different fields are just now learning the things that it can do."

The book gathers expertise from several ODU researchers, along with experts from the U.S. Marine Corps, Texas A&M University, the University of Florida, the University of Virginia, the University of Alabama-Huntsville and the University of Ottawa.

In the book's preface, the authors write that "many universities are realizing that modeling and simulation is becoming an important tool in solving and understanding numerous and diverse problems. … This text serves to provide an orientation to the theory and applications of modeling and simulation from a multidisciplinary perspective."

To students, the book offers a concise look at the key concepts that comprise the field of modeling and simulation.

For instructors, it covers a lot of ground on the creation of the discipline, how models and simulations are used to solve problems, real-world examples, human interaction with modeling and simulation, and the future of the discipline.

The authors envision the textbook being used in both undergraduate and graduate programs - in fields from computer science to medicine - to provide an introductory reference and course.

"We also see it being used by professionals in industry and government as a way of understanding this emerging field," Sokolowski said.

So far, almost 200 copies of the book have been sold in less than a month. Banks said the textbook could soon be in use in M&S courses across North America.

This article was posted on: March 12, 2009

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