'How to Stop an Epidemic' topic of free public presentation Feb. 6

February 03, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A free public lecture titled "How to Stop an Epidemic" will be given by Matthew Ferrari, assistant professor of biology and statistics at Penn State, at 11 a.m. Feb. 6 in 100 Thomas Building on the University Park campus. During his lecture, Ferrari will answer the question "When an infectious disease like Ebola or measles erupts somewhere on Earth, what is the best way to harness limited health care resources to stop its spread?"

The presentation is the third of six lectures on consecutive Saturdays in the 2016 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, an annual free public minicourse provided by Penn State's Eberly College of Science. Registration is not required, and all are welcome to attend. The overall topic of this year's series is "Medical Research from Labs to Hospitals to Homes." Ferrari and the other speakers all are making discoveries at the frontiers of research related to human health.

Ferrari is a leader on the front lines of the effort to stop runaway disease outbreaks worldwide. He will describe his work with the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières in using adaptive management methods to decide the most effective deployment of vaccines and other strategies for fighting epidemics.

Ferrari's research focuses on the application of quantitative modeling and analysis to inform public health policy, and also on deepening the understanding of ecological factors involving parasites and infectious diseases. His research investigates how differences in interactions among individual organisms, including plants, wildlife and humans, result in patterns that can be detected within populations due to such factors as the organisms' age, sex or location. He investigates how the movements of individuals generates disease patterns within a population, how the statistical methods he is developing can overcome problems in using incomplete data sets as effective public-health tools, and how simple models can be used to inform public-health decision making in the developing world.

In collaboration with Médecins Sans Frontières and the World Health Organization, Ferrari is investigating local and regional dynamics of annual measles epidemics in developing countries — with particular focus on Niger, Nigeria and Malawi — in order to recommend measles-vaccination strategies to minimize illness and death. He is using statistical analysis and epidemic models to investigate large-scale patterns of measles cases, the nature of seasonal measles outbreaks at the regional level, and local differences in how measles outbreaks can be predicted and managed. Ferrari's research in global public health also includes locally relevant, data-driven models that predict disease dynamics in a changing world. Ferrari's research also includes projects at the interface between agricultural and natural systems.

Ferrari has published numerous papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and he has been an invited speaker at conferences and workshops in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Before being appointed an assistant professor of biology at Penn State in 2010, Ferrari had been a research associate since 2007 and a postdoctoral researcher from 2006 to 2007 at Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics and the Department of Biology. He earned a doctoral degree in ecology at Penn State in 2006, a master's degree in statistics at Montana State University in 2002, a master's degree in fish and wildlife management at Montana State University in 1999, and a bachelor's degree in biology at Colby College in 1996.

The lectures remaining in the 2016 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science series after Ferrari's Feb. 6 lecture include:

  • "New Antibiotics for Drug-Resistant Infections" on Feb. 13 by Kenneth Keiler, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State;
  • "Invented: A Better Tool Against Cancer" on Feb. 20 by Tony Jun Huang, professor of engineering science and mechanics and the Huck Distinguished Chair in Bioengineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State; and
  • "Anti-Cancer Drugs: Discovery and Development" on Feb. 27 by Raymond J. Hohl, professor of medicine and pharmacology and the director of the Penn State Cancer Institute.

The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is an annual free public minicourse organized and supported by the Penn State Eberly College of Science as an enjoyable and enlightening learning opportunity for residents of central Pennsylvania. The lectures will be archived online for learners worldwide. More information about the Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, including archived recordings of previous lectures, is available at science.psu.edu/frontiers.

For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information by calling 814-867-5830 or emailing science@psu.edu.

  • Matthew Ferrari

    Matthew Ferrari

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated June 03, 2021