Our group of Complex Systems scientists all have their own areas of research and expertise. Some have wide-ranging interests while others focus on one or two topics. We often talk about them as ‘Renaissance people’ due to the fact that in addition to being super-skilled researchers and professors, they all have many other talents (musicians, coffee roasters, ballroom dancers, to name but a VERY FEW), and in addition an over all ‘multi-disciplinarianism’ that is a required trait of complex systems scientists.
The faculty in the Center for the Study of Complex Systems are researchers in a public university and strongly identify with that feeling of responsibility - to do research in the service of the greater good.
With these forces working together, it is easy to understand how many in our group were able and inspired to pivot their research effort, starting early in 2020 in response to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. They saw that the world needed help and they responded.
Here are some of our Complex Systems unit who have been working on topics related to the coronavirus pandemic:
At the behest of the State of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Marisa Eisenberg and her team, developed a COVID dashboard early in the pandemic and were subsequently asked to present at one of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s televised COVID briefings on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
She has continued to work with the State of Michigan throughout the pandemic. Read about her early work and her team here.
Marisa has consulted and been interviewed throughout the past year including a February 2021 interview on NPR radio about the success of Michigan's COVID 'Pause to Save Lives'. The state’s virus dashboard was expanded to include disparities and vaccination data as reported in the University Record on April 12, 2021.
Marisa’s work has also been presented in seminars including her appearance in the April 17 MICDE seminar, “Transmission Modeling of Infectious Diseases and the Covid-19 Outbreak” and Marissa Renardy presented some of their joint work at the October 20, 2020 Complex Systems Seminar, “Predicting the second wave of COVID-19 in Washtenaw County, MI”
Marisa managed to make all of these contributions to the greater Covid-19 knowledge bank while also co-authoring 19 published articles (January 2020-April 2021) at least five of which were related to COVID-19 research. The papers also include other topics such as norovirus, varicella zoster, tuberculosis, squamous cell carcinoma, measles, hepatitis A and HPV vaccine, and the flu. In addition, she and husband Jeff were busy with the birth of their first child ‘CJ’ in May of 2020!
Early in 2020. Luis quickly recognized the devastation that would accompany the rapidly developing coronavirus pandemic. While not an epidemiologist per se - he felt called to do something to help.
He thought the best way to help the public - and his students - would be to help develop an ‘intuition for pandemics’ by building an interactive website where people could actually ‘watch a virtual epidemic unfold’ in their web browsers. With the knowledge that students learn best with ‘hands on’ experience - he knew the students in his class “Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease” would also benefit from the website. He thought the best way to help the public - and his students - would be to help develop an ‘intuition for pandemics’ by building an interactive website where people could actually ‘watch a virtual epidemic unfold’ in their web browsers. With the knowledge that students learn best with ‘hands on’ experience - he knew the students in his class “Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease” would also benefit from the website.
As the year and the pandemic progressed, Luis made additions to this site including ‘small world’ and ‘an evolving pandemic’ and in April of 2021, he updated his ‘infectious matter’ model to add the effects of available vaccines in a new site and model, "Our Race Towards Herd Immunity".
In July 2020, Anna Megdell from LSA magazine covered much of his work in ‘Intuitive Learning’ where she wrote:
This spring, as people struggled to navigate decision-making during COVID-19, LSA Professor Luis Zaman designed a tool to help create something not found in stores: intuition for how to navigate the pandemic.
No doubt in part due to this work, and also Luis’s excellent reputation and pioneering nature of all areas of his work, in October of 2020, Luis was chosen as one of the “Sixteen faculty members named to [the University of Michigan] COVID-19 council “ where he continues to serve the needs of the University as a whole as it navigates higher education during a pandemic.
Scott Page, John Seely Brown Distinguished University Professor of Complexity, Social Science, and Management got to work right away with the class he was teaching when the pandemic began: Management and Organizations (MO 410) - Collective Intelligence. With the students in this class, he put together a website that details how models matter for COVID-19, “Modeling COVID-19 - Achieving Collective Intelligence Through Ensembles”.
This was soon followed by the first of five in a video series called Understanding Epidemics produced by Scott along with colleagues including Complex Systems faculty member, Abigail Jacobs. In describing the series, Scott says, “I am working to produce a collection of videos explaining how models and data can help us understand the COVID epidemic and make policy.” Video Titles range from “Explaining Fatality Rates In An Epidemic” to “The IHME Model And Curve Fitting”.
As companies were ‘opening back up’ after the initial Covid surge, Scott put together another website called “A Leader’s Toolkit for Reopening” which includes practical applications and infographics. He also penned an article for the Washington Post about the usefulness of using several models to address the pandemic.
Links to all of these contributions can be found here. This work was in addition to publishing articles on collective intelligence, diversity, and complex adaptive systems, among other research interests.
Finally, the paperback edition of Scott’s book, The Model Thinker came out in March of 2021 and contains a new chapter on COVID modeling.
Being retired has certainly not affected the productivity of these two emeritus professors (Carl Simon is CSCS faculty, Jim Koopman is affiliated CSCS faculty). Carl Simon, whose more recent research interests have ranged from Great Lakes salmon, to social inequities in young children, to the spread of crime; teamed up with long time collaborator and epidemiologist James Koopmanearly in the pandemic to start COVID research together. This collaboration led to their paper, “Modeling the population effects of epitope specific escape mutations in SARS-CoV-2 to guide vaccination strategies”.
The pair have since presented as part of our seminar series and at the recent COVID Modeling Symposium
And finally, in true Complex Systems form, an interdisciplinary team of including Elizabeth Bruch, Luis Zaman, Marisa Eisenberg, Jon Zelner, Emily Andrus, Shuyang Du, and Stephanie Choi have been creating a dynamic and interactive introduction to systems modeling focusing on COVID as a relevant case study.
All of this demonstrates that CSCS faculty have the breadth of knowledge and conviction to serve in a time of crisis, and are ready and willing to do so.
Title Photo: Electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virions with visible coronae NIAID - https://www.flickr.com/photos/niaid/49534865371/This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. Credit: NIAID-RML