Research

Overview

I am interested in developing a quantitative understanding of the dynamics of pathogens and immune responses. The work of my group involves the use of mathematical models and computer simulations. We like nothing better than to validate models by confronting them with experimental data — we try to make testable predictions, and in collaboration with experimentalists conduct the relevant experiments. We work in close collaboration with experimental immunologists, in particular the group of Dr. Rafi Ahmed at Emory.

Our three main areas of investigation are:

  1. The dynamics of infections and immune responses How do immune systems work? What determines whether an infection is short lived or chronic, and whether it generates lasting immunity? The answers to questions could help us design better vaccines, particularly towards persistent infections such as malaria and HIV.
  2. Linking immunology and epidemiology Immunology and epidemiology are traditionally very different fields, yet they are intimately related. We have developed a theoretical framework to connect the within-host dynamics of a pathogen with its transmission characteristics. We have used this framework to understand why pathogens harm their hosts, and under what conditions we expect a pathogens virulence to change.
  3. The emergence, spread and evolution of infectious diseases How do pathogens emerge and spread through host populations? By addressing these general questions we can gain insight into the factors that have led to the emergence of HIV, SARS, and new strains of the influenza virus. This will allow us to predict what factors will be important in the emergence of infectious diseases in the future.