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Summer Research Program Mentor List

2014 Summer Research Program Mentors:

Steven Albert, PhD

Summary of Research Projects Available

The MIDAS Behavior Core seeks students with an interest in game theory, health behavior, behavioral economics, and experimental psychology. Computer programming background is helpful.  Students will develop simulations of health behavior change and develop experimental paradigms involving games to fine tune simulations.

Desirable Experience

Some computer programming skills, experience with developing games.


Shawn Brown, PhD

Summary of Research Projects Available


Desireable Experience

1. Strong background in mathematics

2. Public Health background helpful but not required.

3. C++ programming or similar language  background preferred


Gilles Clermont, MD

Summary of Research Projects Available

We wish to further develop an intrahost differential equation model of dengue virus. The basic pathophysiologic mechanisms are known and an elementary model exists, but it would need to be further developed, and a literature search conducted to calibrate the model to biological data. Such a model currently does not exist in the published literature. The deliverable is a running model.

Desireable Experience

Familiarity with ordinary differential equations and the matlab programming language. Familiarity with linux OS and of C++ is a plus (no pun intended). Engineering or mathematics students are best suited for the position.


John Grefenstette, PhD

Summary of Research Projects Available

We have projects for students with strong computational skills who are interested in learning about modeling and simulation for public health. The student will contribute to the development and testing of a large-scale agent based modeling system for epidemics. The student will learn about agent-based modeling and simulation, and about working in a team environment on a large-scale scientific software project. Outcomes may include the development of new software modules or the analysis of large data sets, with the possibility of contributing to a published research article.

Desireable Experience

Required: At least one full semester course in C++ programming with a grade of B or better.

Preferred: At least two semesters of programming, including a course on data structures.


Hasan Guclu, PhD

Summary of Research Projects Available

We will build a social network model with many communities. These communities are very diverse in terms of their connectivity, density, and individual characteristics. Then, we will simulate an influenza outbreak on this network to determine different levels of infection risk on the communities depending on their structural characteristics.

Desireable Experience

Programming experience with one of R, Python, and C/C++. Some statistical analysis experience will be useful.


Christopher Keane, PhD

Summary of Research Projects Available

Simulations focusing on health behavior in social context, following up on the models in the book, Modeling Behavior in Complex Public Health Systems, modelingbehavior.pitt.edu. We will focus on the social-psychological aspects of behavior, including possibly pro-social behaviors.

Desireable Experience

Social or behavioral science background or psychology. The student should at least have had taken one or more courses on these topics. This could also include social psychology, sociology, and anthropology.


Supriya Kumar, PhD

Summary of Research Projects Available

As a behavioral health researcher, my research is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which health disparities arise in the population. Specifically, projects are geared towards testing specific hypotheses of why low-income households bear a greater burden of respiratory infections than higher-income households. Additional research studies may involve statistical analyses of the demographic and socio-economic factors associated with influenza cases in the state of Pennsylvania, and geo-coding and mapping respiratory infection cases in sub-populations in India. In all cases, I expect that the summer scholar’s research will not only result in a peer-reviewed publication, but also help build evidence to inform policy to reduce socio-economic disparities in infectious disease attack rates.

Desireable Experience

Geo-spatial analysis (using ArcGIS, GeoDa) and statistical analysis (familiarity with a statistical package such as STATA, SAS, or R).

Programming experience would be a positive and may result in additional research options.


Wilbert van Panhuis, MD, PhD

Summary of Research Projects Available

Innovative visualization and analysis tools for contagious disease data to improve public health

Project Tycho™ aims to advance access and use of public health data for better disease control that saves lives. Featured in the NEJM and the New York Times, Project Tycho™ has already digitized all weekly US surveillance data and provides easy access to these data through its website. This summer project will create innovative visualization and analysis tools to be featured on the main project website. These new tools will make this rich data resource accessible and usable to a broad audience, ranging from scientists to students, policy makers, journalists, and the general public. During this project, you will work in a group of highly skilled students that will develop cutting-edge data visualization and exploration tools including maps, interactive graphics, filters, and analytical tools such as dynamic data aggregation and statistical summaries. This project will greatly accelerate the use of public health data for better disease control and to save lives.

Desireable Experience

- Data management skills using statistical or other programming software
- Strong web programming skills including Java, PHP, HTML, SQL, and/or other web programming languages
- Graphic design or visualization experience or interest



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