Reed receives grant to develop mathematical models of epidemics

Reed has received a grant of $65,540 from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to support innovative research in theoretical and computational aspects of modern epidemiology. Richard Crandall, director of Reed’s Center for Advanced Computation and Howard Vollum Adjunct Professor of Science, Physics, is the project’s principal investigator, and Stephen Arch, L.N. Ruben Professor of Biology, is the co-principal investigator. Their mathematical models will provide new tools to understand the movement of epidemics of deadly diseases such as smallpox, anthrax, ebola, and HIV through a population. Crandall and Arch are working with seven Reed student research apprentices in a year-long theoretical project to develop and refine mathematical models for the spread of these diseases. Some interns are biology majors, while others are mathematics or physics majors. They are addressing the best strategies and timing for vaccinations, for vector suppression, and for applications of biological countermeasures. Applying nonlinear mathematical models that incorporate theories of chaos and fractals—a new research area in this field—they are developing models of epidemics based on the occurrences and locations of infections as well as statistics for incubation and contagion. Key elements in these efforts will be graphical visualizations of the models and the predicted evolution of an outbreak.

The DARPA grant specifically encourages dialogue, learning, and collaborative research. The first group of visitors was the Multnomah County Medical Society Taskforce on Oregon’s Response to Bioterrorism, which came to campus for a seminar devoted to the discussion of fundamental mathematical issues of smallpox epidemics. Crandall and Arch are planning more of this type of cooperative seminar with other groups in the Pacific Northwest that are developing policies for countermeasures in the event of an epidemic. End of Article


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Reed Magazine February 2003
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