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Course Date: 29 September 2014 to 24 November 2014 (8 weeks)
Malaria, HIV/AIDS, Influenza, Measles - we’re in a constant battle against infectious diseases. This is a course about the dynamics of such diseases - how they emerge, how they spread around the globe, and how they can best be controlled.
Estimated Workload: 1-2 hours/week
Ottar Bjornstad, PhD is a theoretical ecologist working as a professor in the Departments of Entomology and Biology. His main interests are population ecology and population dynamics with particular emphasis on mathematical and computational aspects. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Statistics, and carries out research in statistical ecology and in methods for analyzing spatiotemporal data.
Ottar is involved in many collaborative studies on the outbreak and persistence of infectious disease.
His work has five interrelated themes:
Rachel A. Smith, PhD is an Associate Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences and Human Development & Family Studies, and an Investigator in the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics and the Methodology Center at the Pennsylvania State University. Smith studies social influences in health.
Her research program focuses on how social identities, social interactions, and social memberships shape and are shaped by communication. She uses a variety of quantitative methods, including dyadic analysis and social network analysis, to study patterns of relationships as well as interpersonal or intergroup influences in persuasion and compliance. She tends to focus on social health conditions, such as infectious diseases and genomics. Her current research centers on building and testing theories focusing on the relationships and dynamics among stigmas, communication, and health.
She has expertise in health message design and evaluation, and extensive experience with the evaluation of funded programs nationally and internationally. For example, she led the community-characteristics research arm of PEPFAR program evaluations with JHUCCP for Namibia (2004-2007), including network mapping and analysis, completed formative research to inform the development of two innovations for malaria and food security in Mozambique (2009-2011), and contributed to a working team focused on scale up for impact for the Gates Foundation (2012). She has made numerous presentations in scientific, technical, policy, and advocacy fora, and authored over 50 scientific, technical, and public health articles and chapters, the majority in peer-reviewed journals.
Her specific CIDD-related interests include:
Mary Poss, PhD is a professor of biology and of veterinary and biomedical sciences and a member of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics and the Center for Comparative Genomics and Bioinformatics. She researches the molecular mechanisms of virus adaptation to changing host environments spanning cellular to population scales.
Among her research interests are:
David Hughes, PhD an assistant professor of Entomology and
Biology at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics where he studies
the role of behavior in driving disease in insect societies and
agroecosystems. His interests lie in parasites and behavior; especially
in situations where the host is social as in the case of ants and
Role of behavior in disease transmission is of particular interest. At one extreme we have parasites that have evolved strategies to control host behavior and at the other there is the ability on the part of hosts to completely avoid infection through behavioral defense. To approach the former he uses ants and other insects that are manipulated by diverse parasites. Most of David's recent work has been on fungi that control ant behavior- the zombie ant phenomenon which is one of the most dramatic examples of behavioral manipulation we know about. To approach the latter example (of behavioral defense) David and his group study ant societies in both the rainforest and the lab to ask how to the recognize and avoid disease. David takes his understanding of disease in rain forests and works in tropical farms that have come to replace forests to ask how the ecological disruption affects the spread of plant diseases.
Humans are also social of course so studying disease in ants leads one to think of disease in humans. David has recently become very interested in human behavior and in particular the expression of altruistic care by certain individuals during epidemics. David is working on the thesis that belief systems shape the expression of this behavior.
David is very interested in biodiversity and life histories and how extreme our lack of knowledge is in this regard. A lot of his work is in tropical rain forests on understudied taxa which drives home the apparent ignorance we have. Such simple things as the behavior of infected individuals and vectors; or the diversity of parasites in apparently well known groups remain unknown. This lack of knowledge extends to agroecosystems where he works. To remedy this he came up with the idea of linking farmers around the world to share knowledge and together with Marcel Salathe developed PlantVillage.
He is also very much interested in the concept of the extended phenotypes. Finally, he likes architecture and how the cultural evolution of cities shapes the evolution of diseases.
Peter Hudson, PhD is the Willaman
Professor of Biology and the Director of Huck Institutes of the Life
Sciences, where he focuses on the ecology of wildlife diseases,
His group uses a mixture of fieldwork, laboratory studies and
mathematical modeling to explore disease dynamics in three main study
Epidemiology and population dynamics
Matthew Ferrari, PhD an assistant professor of biology and
statistics at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics where he
studies the transmission and distribution of infectious diseases and
develops mathematical models to explain the impact of vaccination and
global change on the incidence of infectious disease. The use of these
mathematical and statistical tools assists in his understanding of
patterns of disease incidence, and the effects of heterogeneity, in time
Matthew's specific areas of research include:
Measles dynamics in developing countries
Measles still kills hundreds of thousands of children each year in developing countries. Attempts to eradicate the disease through mass vaccination are hampered by both logistical and epidemiological challenges; for instance, high birth rates can make it difficult to maintain the necessary 95% vaccine coverage.
In collaboration with Medecins Sans Frontières Matthew and his team are investigating local and regional dynamics of annual measles epidemics in West African countries (Niger, Tchad, Democratic Republic of Congo), in order to recommend vaccination strategies to minimize mortality and morbidity due to measles. They are using time series analysis and epidemic models to investigate:
Andrew Read, PhD is an Alumni Professor in the Biological Sciences, professor of entomology and director of Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. He studies the evolution of pathogens, driven by modern medicine and farming.
His research focuses on the ecology and evolutionary genetics of infectious disease, including:
Evolution and virulence
Marcel Salathé, PhD is an assistant professor of biology at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. A Branco Weiss Society in Science fellow, he studies how social networks affect the spread and control of infectious diseases.
After receiving his PhD from the ETH in Zürich, Switzerland, he spent two years as a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University where he studied the effect of human contact network structure on infectious disease spread. His research group currently uses complex systems models, wireless sensor network technology and large-scale data sets from online social media sites to analyze the spread of disease and health behaviors on social networks.
His group's main goal is to measure and improve health outcomes with basic research, mobile technology and social media. His research program includes scholarly work, education, app development (such as crowdbreaks.com and plantvillage.com) and service to the community.
The way he develops his research program is rooted in four observations (in no particular order of priority).
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