Skip Navigation

Day 1

Skip Side Navigation

iFAST Theoretical Ecology - Day 1


Date: July 26, 2021

Time:  10:00 am – 12:30 pm US EDT
              2:00 pm –   4:30 pm UTC/GMT
            10:00 pm – 12:30 am (July 27) Beijing

The epidemiology session (July 26) builds on Simon’s seminar contributions to the study of the spread and evolution of infectious diseases, and creating links with ecology, economics and public policy.  

Fred Adler is a Professor of Mathematics and Biological Sciences at the University of Utah.  He has used mathematical modeling to study questions ranging from his original interests in ecology and epidemiology to include immunology and many fields of molecular and biomedical biology, with a fascination with the coordination of self-organized biolagical systems ranging from ant colonies to cell cellectives.. He is the author of two textbooks: "Modeling the Dynamics of Life" and "Urban Ecosystems: Ecological Principles for the Built Environment."

Yoh Iwasa is a professor emeritus at Kyushu University, Japan. He received PhD from Kyoto University in 1980. After postdoctoral studies at Stanford and Cornell, he joined the faculty of Department of Biology, Kyushu University (1985-2018). He was a postdoctoral research associate at Ecological Research Center, Cornell University when Simon A. Levin was the director (1983-1985). He started his carrier in the theoretical study of ecology, evolution, and animal behavior, including the evolution of mate preference, the dynamics of tropical forests, and social-ecological coupled dynamics for ecosystem management. More recently he has also been working on biological rhythm, cancer, development, and immune system, as well as cultural/social studies. FHM of American Academy of Arts and Sciences (since 2006). Laureates of the Akira-Okubo prize of Society for mathematical biology and JSMB (2017), the Ecological Society of Japan award (2003), and Motoo-Kimura memorial prize of SCSJ (2003).

U.S. Eastern Daylight Time

10:00 am - 10:10 am

Alan Hastings is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis.  His research focuses on a broad range of topics in theoretical ecology, with an emphasis on using concepts from dynamical systems to look carefully at ecological processes over space and time.  He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Ecological Society of America, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the Society for Mathematical Biology. He received his BA in mathematics and his MS and PhD in applied mathematics from Cornell University.

10:10 am - 10:30 am

Mercedes Pascual is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, and an external faculty of the Santa Fe Institute. A theoretical ecologist, she is interested in the population dynamics of infectious diseases, their response to changing environments and their interplay with pathogen diversity. She is also interested in the structure and dynamics of large interaction networks in ecology and epidemiology. Dr. Pascual received her Ph.D. degree from the joint program of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  She was awarded a U.S. Department of Energy Alexander Hollaender Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship for studies at Princeton University, and a Centennial Fellowship in the area of Global and Complex Systems by the James S. McDonnell Foundation for her research at the University of Michigan.  She received the Robert H. MacArthur award from the Ecological Society of America. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

10:30 am - 10:45 am

Luojun Yang is a Ph.D. candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, working with Simon Levin and Bryan Grenfell. Her research focuses on developing data-driven models to understand the interplay between immunity, human behavior, and infectious disease dynamics. Luojun received her B.S. in Biological Science from Nanjing University and worked at UC Davis for her undergraduate thesis with Marissa Baskett (on modeling coupled genetic-demographic dynamics of aquaculture escapees and persistence of wild populations).

10:45 am - 11:00 am

Alex Perkins is an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame. He received his training from multiple of Simon's advisees, including Lou Gross for his BA at the University of Tennessee, Alan Hastings for his PhD at UC Davis, and David Smith for his postdoc with the NIH Fogarty International Center's RAPIDD Program. Alex's lab works on a variety of problems in infectious disease dynamics, ranging from understanding drivers of spatiotemporal dynamics to projecting public health impact of interventions. His research makes use of models ranging in complexity from simple deterministic and statistical to computationally intensive, agent-based models. His lab works primarily on the epidemiology of mosquito-borne diseases, although they have recently expanded their scope to work on certain respiratory diseases, too. More information about the Perkins Lab can be found at

Abstract: Mosquito-borne diseases exert a substantial and growing burden on billions of people throughout the world. Critical to reducing this burden is the availability of a diverse toolkit of effective interventions, yet effective means of control are lacking for some diseases and many of the interventions that are effective are increasingly under threat by resistance evolution. This situation places high importance on the accuracy of efficacy estimates from intervention trials. In this talk, I will draw attention to the role that spatial considerations play in the evaluation of interventions against mosquito-borne diseases in cluster randomized controlled trials, focusing on a recent trial of Wolbachia against dengue in Indonesia.

(5-minute break)

11:05 am - 11:25 am

Aaron King is the Nelson G. Hairston Professor of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Complex Systems at the University of Michigan and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is an applied mathematician and a theoretical ecologist whose work focuses on the dynamics of host-pathogen interactions from the scale of infections to that of epidemics. He is best known for his work developing sophisticated computational methods for efficiently extracting information from noisy, incomplete observations and exploiting these techniques to obtain insights into the determinants of transmission and susceptibility on the basis of time series data of various kinds.

Abstract: Our vast ignorance of the complexities of the biological and social world in some ways resembles that of early navigators on the unexplored seas. Models are like the records of islands, soundings, seamarks, and distantly-glimpsed coastlines described by those who have gone before.  So many of the best-placed of these are due to the prodigious and astute observations of Simon Levin and his numerous intellectual progeny. Interestingly, it is the simpler models that have proved most useful as navigational aids.  In this talk, I ponder why this is so, what it tells us about the value of taking simple models seriously as descriptions of complex phenomena, and what can be done to make models more effective as scientific instruments.

11:25 am - 11:40 am

Chadi Saad-Roy is currently a Ph. D. candidate in Quantitative and Computational Biology at Princeton University, and works with Bryan T. Grenfell, Simon A. Levin, and Ned S. Wingreen. Previously, he completed a B. Sc. with an Honours in Combined Mathematics and Statistics, and a Minor in Biology, at the University of Victoria. Please find detail on his website

11:40 am - 11:55 am

Lindsay Keegan is a Research Assistant Professor in the Division of Epidemiology at the University of Utah. Her research answers the question of how transmission dynamics of infectious diseases impact control and elimination efforts. Her research centers on developing and applying novel statistical and dynamical methods to address questions on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases. Currently she is working on using statistical and mathematical techniques to understand the how pathogens spread in healthcare facilities. In addition, she is working on using dynamical methods to respond to COVID-19.

Abstract: Diphtheria, once a major cause of childhood morbidity and mortality, all but disappeared following introduction of diphtheria vaccine. Recent outbreaks highlight the risk diphtheria poses when civil unrest interrupts vaccination and healthcare access. Lack of interest over the last century resulted in knowledge gaps about diphtheria's epidemiology, transmission, and control. Using data extracted from systematic reviews, we estimate key epidemiologic and clinical parameters necessary to understand diphtheria outbreaks and guide interventions.
        Because vaccinated individuals can become colonized and transmit; we show that vaccination alone can only interrupt transmission in 28% of outbreak settings, making isolation and antibiotics essential. While antibiotics reduce the duration of infection, they must be paired with diphtheria antitoxin to limit morbidity. Appropriate tools to confront diphtheria exist; however, accurate understanding of the unique characteristics is crucial and lifesaving treatments must be made widely available. This comprehensive update provides clinical and public health guidance for diphtheria-specific preparedness and response.

(5-minute break)

12:00 pm - 12:30 pm

Joshua S. Weitz is the Tom and Marie Professor of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech, where he is the founding director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Quantitative Biosciences. Weitz received his PhD in Physics from MIT in 2003, was a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Associate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University in the Levin Lab from 2003-6, and started his faculty position in Biology at Georgia Tech in 2007. He is an elected Fellow of AAAS and the American Academy of Microbiology and was named a Charles Blaise International Chair of Excellence at the Institute of Biology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure for 2021-2022. Weitz directs an interdisciplinary research group focusing on how viruses transform human health and the fate of our planet.

Juliet Pulliam is the Director of the South African DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA, and Professor of Applied Mathematics at Stellenbosch University. Prior to moving to SACEMA in July 2016, she spent five years as a faculty member in the Department of Biology and the Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI) at the University of Florida, where she was also the inaugural director of the International Clinics on Infectious Disease Dynamics and Data (ICI3D, Program. Juliet received a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University in 2007 and spent three years as a Research and Policy for Infectious Disease Dynamics (RAPIDD) Program Fellow at the US National Institute of Health’s Fogarty International Center. Her research focuses on applications of mathematical modelling to epidemiology and control of emerging, zoonotic, and vector-borne infections, including Nipah, Japanese encephalitis, dengue, Ebola, and SARS-CoV-2 viruses. Since March 2020, she has served as a member of both the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on COVID-19 and the core modelling team for the South African COVID-19 Modelling Consortium (SACMC).

Joshua Plotkin is the Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor of Natural Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, where he co-directs the Penn Center for Mathematical Biology.  His work leverages mathematical models of populations as a framework for understanding broad patterns of biological, cultural, and social evolution. 

Wilfred Ndifon is Professor of Theoretical Biology and the Chief Scientific Officer at AIMS, a pan-African network of higher-education institutes dedicated to catalyzing Africa's socio-economic transformation through advanced training and research in mathematical sciences. He has made important contributions to a range of topics at the interface of mathematics and biology, including discovering a mechanism that allows flu viruses to escape from antibodies, with significant implications for the design of more effective flu vaccines; a physical mechanism that governs the generation of T-cell diversity via genetic recombination; and a unified mechanistic explanation for the age-old problem of the original antigenic sin. Recently, he led the development of a new mathematical approach to pooled testing, which has produced substantial testing-efficiency gains in field applications conducted in both Rwanda and South Africa. He took his PhD at Princeton.