Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Yao Li

Subject Categories

Numerical Analysis and Computation | Partial Differential Equations


The goal of the dissertation is to develop the computational methods for quasi-stationary- distributions(QSDs) and the sensitivity analysis of a QSD against the modification of the boundary conditions and against the diffusion approximation.
Many models in various applications are described by Markov chains with absorbing states. For example, any models with mass-action kinetics, such as ecological models, epidemic models, and chemical reaction models, are subject to the population-level randomness called the demographic stochasticity, which may lead to extinction in finite time. There are also many dynamical systems that have interesting short term dynamics but trivial long term dynamics, such as dynamical systems with transient chaos [28]. A common way of capturing asymptotical properties of these transient dynamics is the quasi-stationary distribution (QSD), which is the conditional limiting distribution conditioning on not hitting the
absorbing set yet. However, most QSDs do not have a closed form. So numerical solutions are necessary in various applications. This dissertation studies computational methods for quasi-stationary distributions (QSDs). We first proposed a data-driven solver that solves Fokker-Planck equations for QSDs. Moti- vated by the case of Fokker-Planck equations for invariant probability measures, we set up an optimization problem that minimizes the distance from a low-accuracy reference solution, under the constraint of satisfying the linear relation given by the discretized Fokker-Planck operator. Then we use coupling method to study the sensitivity of a QSD against either the change of boundary condition or the diffusion coefficient. The 1-Wasserstein distance between a QSD and the corresponding invariant probability measure can be quantitatively
estimated. Some numerical results about both computation of QSDs and their sensitivity analysis are provided.
This dissertation also studies the sensitivity analysis of mass-action systems against their diffusion approximations, particularly the dependence on population sizes. As a continuous time Markov chain, a mass-action system can be described by an equation driven by finite many Poisson processes, which has a diffusion approximation that can be pathwisely matched. The magnitude of noise in mass-action systems is proportional to the square root of the molecular count/population, which makes a large class of mass-action systems have quasi-stationary distributions (QSDs) instead of invariant probability measures. In this thesis we modify the coupling based technique developed in [15] to estimate an upper bound of the 1-Wasserstein distance between two QSDs. Some numerical results for sensitivity with different population sizes are provided.