Lydia Bourouiba

In A Nutshell

Lydia Bourouiba studies the physics behind the spread of disease, revealing the mechanics of how sneezes and coughs help transmit everything from the common cold to dangerous pandemics.

About Lydia

As the director of the Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory at MIT, Lydia Bourouiba combines multiple disciplines to analyze pathogen transmission in humans, animals, and plants. Mechanical, physical, and biological experimentation combined with mechanistic physical and physiological modeling is the path to not only understanding pandemics, but improving preparedness for such debilitating agents. In a world where there is an ever increasing threat of infectious diseases, analyzing how they transfer through fluids is critical for future prevention. What does this look like? An example of such work is Lydia’s research on the fluid dynamics of sneezing, using slow motion footage, measurements, and mathematical modeling to better understand the role that sneezes play in the spread of infections. Lydia is also Founder and Chair of the Fluids and Health Conference, creating an international forum to exchange on frontier research and discuss challenges in health, including infectious diseases, drug delivery, and food sciences and policy, where fluid dynamics is at the core. In addition to her MIT professorship, Lydia is an affiliate member of the faculty at Harvard Medical School and received many awards, including the Tse Cheuk Ng Tai’s Prize for Innovative Research in Health Sciences, the Ole Madsen Mentoring Award, and the 2018 Smith Family Foundation Odyssey Award for high-risk/high-reward basic science research.

Learn More

Lydia on the TEDMED Blog

"Knowing more about how sneeze droplets spray can help prevent disease." Massive Science. 2019. 

New theory describes intricacies of a splashing droplet.” MIT News. 2018. 

Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission.” Science Translational Medicine. 2016.

"A Sneeze." New England Journal of Medicine. 2016. 

The snot-spattered experiments that show how far sneezes really spread.” Nature. 2016.

The Deadly Plant Sneeze.” Nautilus. 2015.

Faculty Spotlight: Lydia Bourouiba.” MIT Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. 2015.

Sneezing produces complex fluid cascade, not a simple spray.” MIT News. 2016. 

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Disease Transmission Scientist