Lydia Bourouiba

How diseases and epidemics move through a breath of air

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About Lydia Bourouiba

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. 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 and the 2018 Smith Family Foundation Odyssey Award for high-risk/high-reward basic science research.

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About This Talk

Since the world's first epidemic, we’ve built treatments for various infectious diseases. Yet, our understanding of disease transmission, and the mechanisms behind it, have not advanced much from the 19th century days of Louis Pasteur. Lydia Bourouiba, Disease Transmission Scientist, explains that, to uncover remaining secrets behind disease transmission, we must leverage advances in fluid dynamics and biophysics. Lydia and her team are unveiling the mechanics behind airborne disease transmission, revealing how pathogens travel from a point source (the mouth), into the air, and eventually through ventilation systems, hospitals, airplanes, and more. 

Through advanced mechanistic modeling, Lydia can tell us how to prevent disease outbreaks before they occur. Watch her TEDMED 2018 Talk to discover how we can make better life or death decisions to reduce the spread of infectious disease.

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