Marcel Salathé, PhD is an assistant professor of biology at the
Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. A
Branco Weiss Society in Science fellow, he studies how social networks affect the spread and control of infectious diseases.
After receiving his PhD from the ETH in Zürich, Switzerland, he spent two years as a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University where he studied the effect of human contact network structure on infectious disease spread. His research group currently uses complex systems models, wireless sensor network technology and large-scale data sets from online social media sites to analyze the spread of disease and health behaviors on social networks.
His group's main goal is to measure and improve health outcomes with basic research, mobile technology and social media. His research program includes scholarly work, education, app development (such as
plantvillage.com) and service to the community.
The way he develops his research program is rooted in four observations (in no particular order of priority).
Fundamentally, health and disease are biological phenomena, but ignoring the effect of human behaviors on health and disease outcomes would be ignoring the main drivers of health and disease dynamics in the 21st century.
The internet – in all its flavors, ranging from static websites, to communication tools such as email, to social media, to the mobile internet (smartphones, sensors, etc.) – has become a source of information about human behaviors at an unparalleled scale. This opens up completely new research fields.
The ability to collect, mine, filter, analyze and visualize enormously large data sets from this data source is one of the great practical and educational challenges of our times.
Programming is becoming the lingua franca of science.