SIAM News Blog

Workshop on Modeling Dynamics, Statistical Interference and Prediction of Infectious Diseases

By Anuj Mubayi

The First International Workshop on Modeling Dynamics, Statistical Interference, and Prediction of Infectious diseases (MoDSIP-ID) was successfully organized jointly by myself (Arizona State University), Padmanabhan Seshaiyer of George Mason University (GMU), and Pallav Kumar Baruah and Krishna Kiran Vamsi Dasu from Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (SSSIHL) as a part of the Silver Retreat for the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science of SSSIHL at its Puttaparthi campus in India this August. This was the first annual workshop in its series with broader interests on training individuals, building capacity, collaborations and discussion on recent advancements on mathematical modeling, analysis for public health problems from the developing world, and tapping the vast majority of applied mathematical talent. This effort was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF-DMS) Mathematical Biology program, the Simon A. Levin Mathematical Computational Modeling Science Center (MCMSC) of Arizona State University and SSSIHL. The workshop goals related to modeling of infectious diseases and expanding inclusivity and diversity – in line with the NSF's long-term research agenda of its 10 "Big Ideas." 

The focus of the MoDSIP workshop is as follows:

  • Training undergraduate and graduate STEM students and researchers interested in learning about cutting-edge mathematical modeling concepts, as well as analytical and computational techniques for tropical infectious diseases common in India 
  • Sharing regional innovative and successful mentoring and educational tools with participants from various countries 
  • India has been facing growing challenges related to a recent surge in infectious diseases (e.g. of Denuge, Leishmaniasis, Zika, and Nipah virus) and hence, offering both researchers and students the opportunity to develop new methods and well-designed interventions for global health. Mathematical models are powerful tools and can substantially aid in understanding of transmission dynamics and control of these diseases. 

The workshop covered three different scientific dimensions:

  1. Mathematical modeling: lectures on deterministic and stochastic modeling theory, statistical inference, uncertainty quantification, and high-performance computing
  2. Interdisciplinary science: Hands-on session on identifying and linking data from ecology and social sciences to epidemiology of infectious diseases
  3. Educational training: Experience with professional development, mentoring methods and team building activities.

Participants were engaged in interactive lectures, panel discussions, and hands-on lab sessions (including live streaming open to all) that provided a platform to encourage discussions and foster new collaborations for stimulating novel ideas advancing the field of mathematical modeling of tropical infectious diseases. More than 100 participants from five continents—Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and South America—and at least seven disciplines, including medicine, mathematics, statistics, computer science, information science, engineering, and public health participated in the workshop. The workshop was completely free for participants including registration, local accommodation, and meals. The workshop results are being disseminated via a Special Issue in the internationally recognized Letters in Biomathematics. The workshop also gave U.S. participants a great opportunity to learn from developing countries and generate collaborations with empirical scientists working on local tropical diseases. 

The workshop featured a plenary talk by distinguished mathematical biologist Carlos Castillo-Chavez, of Arizona State University. U.S. researchers also provided day-long training sessions at other institutions across India.

Acknowledgments: Funding from the NSF supported this workshop. 

Anuj Mubayi is an assistant professor of applied mathematics in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change as well as the Simon A. Levin Mathematical Computational and Modeling Science Center at Arizona State University. He is co-director of the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute’s summer training program for undergraduate students.The program aims to improve dropout rates for college students, specifically underrepresented minorities, and encourage and train them for the challenges of graduate-level research in biology and applied mathematics.
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