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Steve Chaplin
University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pandemic news special includes work by IU's GLEaM team

May 28, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's network modeling group continues to draw attention with its work on the H1N1 virus, this time in "Anatomy of a Pandemic," a one-hour news special premiering Sunday on the Science Channel. The network modeling group is led by School of Informatics professor Alessandro Vespignani, an internationally recognized expert on how epidemics move.

informatics image

Photo by Chris Meyer

Informatics graduate student Hao Hu worked earlier this month as part of an IU team modeling the evolution of H1N1 outbreaks across the globe. That work will be part of a Science Channel special this Sunday (May 31, 2009) called "Anatomy of a Pandemic."

Print-Quality Photo

A production crew from CBS News Productions, working for Science Channel's parent, Discovery Communications, spent a day at IU's Bloomington campus in early May visiting Vespignani and the GLEaM group's "war room" at the IU School of Informatics as modeling was being done on the worldwide spread of H1N1.

GLEaM (Global Epidemic and Mobility modeler) is one of the projects carried on at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research in the School of Informatics that is also funded through IU's Pervasive Technology Institute. Its team members integrate sociodemographic and population mobility data into spatially structured disease models to simulate worldwide epidemics. The research group is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Vespignani, a physicist who holds a distinguished rank professorship as a Rudy Professor of Informatics, came to IU in 2004 following research appointments to Yale University, UNESCO's International Center for Theoretical Physics and the French National Council for Scientific Research.

IU's contribution to the news special, which will air at 8 p.m., Sunday (May 31), is captured at the beginning and end of "Anatomy of a Pandemic" over four to five minutes of screen time, according to Jonathan Grupper, the producer who managed the film crew during shooting in Bloomington.

Promotional material from the Science Channel on "Anatomy of a Pandemic" reads: "It's a terrifying word. But what does it really mean? The outbreak of H1N1 is the latest deadly global battle between man and virus. As we learn more about how viruses mutate, an international effort is underway to vanquish humanity's most lethal foes."

The program first airs at 8 p.m. Sunday, than again at 11 p.m., followed by a June 2 airing at 3 a.m.

Also worth noting is the 9 p.m., May 31, followup to the premiere of "Anatomy of a Pandemic," titled "Connected: The Power of Six Degrees." The 2008 production, by BBC, ABC and Discovery Channel, which first aired in Australia last year as "How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer," also includes an appearance by Vespignani as he and other network theorists explore the idea that there is a pervasive law which nature uses to organize itself. Discovery Health Channel will also air "Anatomy of a Pandemic" at 8 and 11 p.m., June 1, and again at 4 p.m. June 6.

Since H1N1 was first identified in April, research conducted by Vespignani and the GLEaM working group has been featured in major media around the world, including The New York Times, Lancet, MSNBC, BBC and USA Today.

To speak with Vespignani or other members of GLEaM, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896 or