Blacksburg, Va., April 2, 2007 – Stephen Eubank, deputy director of the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL) at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, and Bryan Lewis, NDSSL graduate student, have contributed to the development of a visualization display for a new museum exhibit that focuses on infectious diseases. The display is on show to the general public at the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

The project, named “Infectious Disease:  Evolving Challenges to Human Health,” features interactive displays that provide an in-depth view of the viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites that surround us, the deadly diseases they can cause, and the scientific challenges involved in targeting them.

Eubank’s and Lewis’s visualization simulates the spread of measles and influenza in a large, urban city in the United States.  The project also explores the consequences of a drop in vaccine coverage and how this impacts various groups of the population as a whole.

Lewis remarked: “For this project, we simulated the impact of seasonal influenza and measles in Chicago under several different schemes of vaccination. Our group designed the experiments to illustrate the importance of vaccination and provided the computational support and in-depth analysis. Additionally we worked closely with the museum to develop an exhibit that would be both engaging and educational.” He added: “For influenza, we simulated different levels of vaccination according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.  Our computer simulations found that if all the groups targeted for vaccination – which is around 65% of the population – were indeed vaccinated, the seasonal influenza epidemic was eliminated. For measles, the computer simulations illustrated that even if just a small percent of the population were to stop vaccinating their children each year, in only 20 years the population would be susceptible to a widespread epidemic of measles with the introduction of just one case. The main idea of these simulations was to convey a compelling and important public health message through the use of sophisticated computer simulations coupled to high-impact and easy-to-understand visualizations.” 

VBI’s Executive and Scientific Director Bruno Sobral added: “Scientists have a social responsibility to communicate their research to a wide audience. This project is a good example of how innovative researchers can make their work accessible to the general public. At the same time, it provides considerable insight into how science can support decision making for global health challenges.”

Eubank serves as a principal investigator in one of the research groups making up the National Institutes of Health’s MIDAS (Modeling Infectious Disease Agent Study) network. 

Bryan Lewis is a graduate student in the Genetics, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (GBCB) program at VBI.

The museum exhibit opened to the general public on Saturday, March 31.

About the Marian Koshland Science Museum

The Marian Koshland Science Museum features state-of-the-art exhibits that present the complexities of science in an engaging and accessible way to the general public. The museum explores current scientific issues at the core of many of the nation's public policy decisions, as presented in reports by the National Academies. 

Published by Public Relations, April 02, 2007