Conferences & Symposia

Contagion: Exploring Modern Epidemics

Radcliffe Institute Science Symposium
Contagion: Exploring Modern Epidemics

Epidemic disease spreads quickly in our interconnected, globalized world. This symposium looks at new ways of tracking epidemics using big data and social networks to predict and stem the rise of emergent diseases.

Epidemiologists, journalists, physicians, public officials, scientists, and sociologists will discuss their cutting-edge research, prediction mechanisms, and possible solutions to the range of epidemics that face our world today—from Ebola and SARS to the more recently recognized social epidemics of the opioid crisis and gun violence.

The symposium will conclude with a talk by Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who specializes in global public health and foreign policy.

Free and open to the public.



If you are interested in participating in the poster session at the science symposium, please contact Maura Madden at

We welcome submissions from graduate students, post-docs, undergraduates, and those produced by faculty in partnership with students.

The deadline is Tuesday, October 24, 2017, at noon.



9:10 a.m.


Lizabeth Cohen, Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, Department of History, Harvard University

Framing Remarks

Janet Rich-Edwards, Codirector of the Science Program, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

9:30 a.m.

Infectious Disease

Christian T. Happi, Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics; Director, African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases; Director, Directorate of Research Innovations and Partnerships, Redeemer's University (Nigeria)

Anne W. Rimoin, Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, UCLA School of Public Health

Celina Maria Turchi Martelli, physician and researcher, Aggeu Magalhães Research Center, Fundação Oswaldo Crus (Brazil)

Moderator: Marcia Castro, Associate Professor of Demography, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

11:00 a.m.


11:15 a.m.

Kevin M. Esvelt, Leader, Sculpting Evolution Group; Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

12 p.m.

Lunch break and student poster session

1 p.m.

Big Data

Ami Bhatt, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Hematology) and of Genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine

C. Jessica Metcalf, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University

James M. Wilson, Associate Research Professor, School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nevada, Reno; Director, Nevada Center for Infectious Disease Forecasting; Director, Ascel Bio National Infectious Disease Forecast Center

Moderator: Caroline Buckee, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

2:30 p.m.


2:45 p.m.

Social Roots

Andrew Kolodny, Senior Scientist and Co-Director of Opioid Policy Research, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University; Executive Director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing

Andrew Papachristos, Associate Professor of Sociology, Yale University

Daphne C. Watkins, Associate Professor of Social Work and Director of the Joint PhD Program in Social Work and Social Science, School of Social Work, University of Michigan; Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Michigan Medical School

Moderator: Michelle A. Williams, Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

4:15 p.m.

Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist specializing in global public health and foreign policy writer

5 p.m.

Closing Remarks

Janet Rich-Edwards

5:15 p.m.