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Prof. Lydia Bourouiba

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA)

TitleFluids and biophysics of disease transmission

Prof. Lydia Bourouiba
Prof. Bourouiba directs The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory, part of the Fluids and Health Network, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research interests span a broad range of fundamental to applied curiosity-driven questions in fluid physics, biophysics and mathematical modeling and often involving fluid physics across scales from turbulence, interfacial, complex, and biofluid flows, to porous media. Her research often involves co-development of experimental methods and theory. Her recent work focused on multi-scale dynamics of unsteady fluid fragmentation, droplets and bubbles, and complex and multiphase flows with particular focus on deciphering the interplay between the physics and biology that drive mixing, transport, persistence and adaptation of a range of organisms relevant to addressing environmental, energy, contamination, and health challenges. Prof. 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 is an elected Fellow of the American Physical Society (2021) and of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering in (2022).
Infectious disease transmission involves interactions of pathogens with complex fluids such as in respiratory mucous, isolated droplets, or multiphase turbulent clouds. This is true for products of human exhalations, bursting bubbles, or impacting raindrops, all having potential to be efficient sources of microorganism-laden microdroplets. Our mechanistic understanding of how such microorganisms successfully and sustainably transfer from one host or ecological reservoir to the next, despite sharp shifts in environmental and climate conditions, remains woefully limited. We will highlight how studying such challenging health questions can lead to fundamentally new insights, and emergence of a broad class of relevant open fluid physics and mechanics problems, including those in which the unsteadiness of fragmentation, mixing, rheology, and phase change are at the core. And how in turn these fundamental processes begin to shed light on the entangled and multiscale interactions of physics and biology in shaping adaptation, evolution, and the very spread of life.