Chemical Kinetics and Epidemics

I will describe and derive some of the fundamental principles of infectious disease epidemiology – but from the perspective of a chemist. Using standard epidemic models, I will provide grounding for some popular public health terms such as ‘flatten the curve’, ‘exponential growth’ and ‘super-spreading’. By considering links to reaction kinetics in particular, I will show how intuition from chemistry might help explain why interventions such as social distancing and quarantines work. Where possible, links to current work on COVID-19 will be made, though the focus of the talk is on epidemiological principles that apply to any infectious outbreak.

About the speaker

Dr. Kris V. Parag is currently an MRC skills development fellow at Imperial College London and part of the COVID-19 response team within the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis. His main research interests are in the statistical properties of infectious disease models, with a focus on understanding how models can be constructed to minimise complexity yet maximise reliability. Kris’ path to epidemiology has been a strange one having trained as an aerospace engineer before undertaking a PhD in control theory. He then ventured into zoology before finding an interest in epidemic dynamics. As a result, and as this talk will reflect, he maintains a partiality to multidisciplinary perspectives and believes that a few key equations could be responsible for a disproportionate number of results.