BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 23, 2015 – Caitlin Rivers, a doctoral student in the Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology program at Virginia Tech, has been selected as a Fellow in the 2015 class of the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative.

As part of the UPMC Center for Health Security, the program works to further the center’s mission in protecting people's health from the consequences of epidemics and disasters, ensuring community resilience when confronted with major challenges.

The fellowship program recognizes the critical need for innovation and expertise in the field of biosecurity for the future. Designed to create and sustain a multidisciplinary biosecurity community, the initiative brings together early career professionals from government, defense, private industry, science, public health, medicine, the social sciences, academia, journalism and other related professions.

“I am looking forward to interacting with leaders in biosecurity and advancing my understanding of the field”, said Rivers. “The fellowship allows me an exciting opportunity to contribute ideas to the scientific and policy communities.”

Rivers has been instrumental in the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute’s response efforts in modeling the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The case reports from official healthcare agencies were not made available in a way that was conducive to data analysis and modeling. Rivers recognized this problem, manually digitized the records and made the data public for researchers around the world.

In conjunction with her open data efforts, Rivers organized the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory’s Computing for Ebola Challenge. The hackathon brought together Virginia Tech students, researchers and participants outside the university to develop applications to combat the Ebola epidemic.

“Caitlin’s broad interests, intellectual curiosity, strong work ethic and collaborative spirit make her a natural leader,” said Bryan Lewis, public health policy analyst at the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute. “I look forward to her future contributions in the biosecurity and public health fields.”

Rivers received her master’s in public health with a concentration in infectious disease from Virginia Tech. She previously won the Department of Defense’s Science Mathematics and Research for Transformation grant for her studies in computational epidemiology.

Published by Maureen Lawrence-Kuether, February 23, 2015