REU Project ID 3.2

Exploring the variability of epidemic spread

Prof. Oskar Hallatschek

The dynamic of the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed severe short-comings in our predictive understanding of how diseases spread. A key unresolved question is “How predictable is epidemic spread?” If we could replay the tape of life covering these past 6 months, how similar would we expect the ups and downs of case counts and their distribution be? This question is important because the answer could help us better understand the predictability of epidemic spread and how much of the variability in space is due to chance or systematic differences between regions.

This undergraduate project aims at constructing and analyzing a spatial epidemic model that only encodes the essential chance events driving the dynamics so that we may arrive at an analytic understanding of the scaling laws governing the epidemic fluctuation spectrum. Publications are available and are recommended as background reading for students interested in this project.