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USciences Professor Wins Fulbright Scholarship for Zika Research

By Brian Kirschner

Michael RobertUsing mathematical modeling to fight the spread of Zika virus, University of the Sciences assistant professor Michael Robert, PhD, has received funding from the Fulbright Commission to continue his research in Argentina this summer.

Dr. Robert, a professor in USciences Department of Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics Department, is working on the study in collaboration with Elizabet Estallo, PhD, at the National University of Córdoba in Córdoba, Argentina, and Anna M. Stewart-Ibarra, PhD, from the Department of Medicine at the State University of New York – Upstate Medical University. The full title of their grant is “Modeling the impacts of social, environmental, and ecological heterogeneities on the spatiotemporal dynamics of Zika virus and its vector Aedes aegypti in the city of Córdoba, Argentina.”

“We will investigate questions such as: How does population and environmental heterogeneity impact the spread of Zika in the city? How does the region of the city in which the virus is first detected determine the spread throughout the city? How will control measures differ in different regions of the city?,” Dr. Robert explained.

Together, the team will integrate data into mechanistic mathematical models to study the potential spread of Zika virus. Dr. Estallo and Dr. Stewart-Ibarra are will be collecting data on Aedes aegypti (the mosquito that transmits Zika virus and other viruses such as dengue and yellow fever). Then, Dr. Robert will incorporate the results of their studies to investigate the potential impacts of socio-ecological, environmental, and demographic factors on the potential for Zika spread and outbreaks in the city of Córdoba.

MosquitoSince Zika virus is transmitted primarily by the mosquito species Aedes aegypti, which also transmits dengue fever, chikungunya, Mayaro, and yellow fever viruses, the results of this study can potentially influence measures to control the mosquito population and efforts to prevent virus spread throughout the city.

Dr. Robert is a mathematical biologist whose research utilizes mathematical tools from subject areas such as ordinary differential equations, difference equations, optimal control theory, stochastic processes, and probability theory to answer biological questions in disciplines such as epidemiology, population biology, population genetics, and ecology.

This Fulbright Scholarship is sponsored by the United States Embassy in Argentina and it is administered by the Fulbright Commission. The award in the amount of $13,500 covers travel and expenses over three months.

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