Combating Disease in the Modern Age: Virus Evolution

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 28, 2021 - July 14, 20216/28 - 7/142 WeeksOnlineWaitlistedOnlineLauren Quattrochi

Course Description

Viruses can mutate in the blink of an eye. Virus evolution is why we need a new flu shot every year, and how new viruses such as Zika and Ebola seem to appear without forewarning. Germs can outmaneuver and genetically mutate to defeat even our best medicines, so how can we defeat them? Will there be a completely new never-before-seen virus like SARS-CoV-2 or will a well-known killer resurface, such as rabies, smallpox or polio or perhaps something man-made using synthetic biology?  

Modern medicine has not solved all the mysteries of disease. There are unknown diseases on the horizon. The ability to predict the next biological threat or disease is dependent on fast-paced, cutting-edge technologies wielded by highly-trained researchers. But even before technologies can be employed, a key component to predicting the next outbreak is understanding what viruses and diseases are newly emerging within our population, whether from the jungles of Africa or markets in China. This course takes an in-depth view of obscure pathogenic agents with a focus on viruses that have fatal outcomes or no cure, such as rabies, flaviviruses (e.g. Ebola), coronaviruses (such as COVID-19), Nipah and many more.

Through this interactive online course, students will split their time between tailored lessons on emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), small breakout discussions and creative assignments to prepare them – as scientists – to rapidly evaluate scientific news, technologies and literature.

Students will explore the biology behind the most fatal infections facing society today and the steps scientists are taking to intercept massive catastrophes. Students will be led by elite researchers on the microbiology, pathobiology, immunology and vaccines designed toward halting the world’s next pandemic. The lead instructor, Dr. Lauren Quattrochi (or Dr. Q) will share stories from the frontlines where she advises key emergency and preparedness responders and governmental agencies on outbreak steps, vaccine advancements and mitigation strategies.

Additionally, as the science community trends toward big data and applying next generation genetic sequencing technologies, the course will introduce students to tools that data scientists would leverage to solve important disease related questions. This will include several introductions to the Python programming language and Jupyter notebook experience working with open source Influenza data to predict the next vaccine strain and an introduction to what machine learning can do to predict Type 2 diabetes.

The course will immerse students in the following areas of vaccinology and disease:
• The fundamentals of microbiology
• The pathogens responsible for several major fatal diseases, along with their current treatments
• The underlying pathways for vaccines, antibiotics and drug-resistance
• The historical relevance of infections in society and the scientific pioneers who created the field of microbiology
• National and International efforts to combat emerging infectious agents

Prerequisites: Having taken an introductory biology or anatomy course will be advantageous to students. This course is intentionally designed to prepare high school students for advanced college-level curriculum and pace.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEBI1017

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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