Contamination and pathogen transmission physics: insights and challenges


The fundamental mechanisms governing transmission of and contamination by most pathogens remain poorly understood.  Multiscale processes, including fluid physics at various scales, combined with biochemical processes are key in filling this gap. In this talk, I will discuss how fluid physics and, in particular, interfacial and multiphase flows and fluid fragmentation play a particularly important role in shaping pathogen transport, enabling us also to gain insights and more precisely identify the challenges involved in the study of contamination and pathogen transmission physics.

Lydia Bourouiba founded and directs The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory at MIT. Her research interests and activities span a broad range of applied mathematics approaches at the intersection of physics and biology, and curiosity driven fluid dynamic experiments at various scales to elucidate the fundamental physical mechanisms shaping microorganisms and pathogen transport, with a focus on elucidating poorly understood mechanisms of disease transmission through the lens of fluid dynamics, biophysics and their mathematical modeling. She has worked on various fluid dynamics problems from turbulence to interfacial flows and her recent work elucidated multi-scale dynamics of unsteady fluid fragmentation, droplet and bubble dynamics, and complex and multiphase flows with particular interest in the physics and biology that drive mixing, transport, persistence, and adaptation of pathogens relevant to contamination and health.

Bourouiba is the recipient of many awards and recognitions, including the Tse Cheuk Ng Tai’s Prize for Innovative Research in Health Sciences, the Ole Madsen Mentoring Award, and the Smith Family Foundation Odyssey Award for high-risk/high-reward basic science research. She was elected fellow of the American Physical Society in 2021 and of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering in 2022. 


Thursday, April 28
4:30pm MST/AZ
Virtual via Zoom:


Lydia Bourouiba
Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering
Affiliate Faculty of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) Faculty
Affiliate Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Virtual via Zoom