Episode 04: Insights from Modeling Infectious Diseases in India

Interview with Prof. Gautam Menon

For Episode 04 of IDRF Speaks, I spoke to Prof. Gautam Menon, Professor of Physics and Biology at Ashoka University. I heard his public talk early in the pandemic and met him in early March 2020. Prof. Menon has been thinking about/modeling infectious diseases and how viruses spread in the population for a while now- and it was crucial to have voices like his talking to people and engaging with the media during the pandemic. He is remarkable in his deep curiosity and love for science and the commitment to translate this to meaningful impact on society.

I found this to be a truly fascinating conversation about science and science communication. We touched on work of the Indian Scientists’ Response to COVID-19 (ISRC). We spoke about modeling of infectious diseases, what models can predict and where we should be cautious in interpreting them. Given the diversity of fields that he has worked in – we also spoke about how one becomes an expert and how to be a good collaborator. We touched upon the challenges of academia – people not getting their fellowships on time and the need for more institutions.

Critically, we spoke about data in the context of public health – underscoring the fact that sharing of data – of sufficient granularity, accessibility, completeness in a transparent and timely manner remains a key challenge. Addressing this will allow experts from different fields to contribute towards pandemic preparedness in particular and public health in general. In this age when unfiltered information is everywhere, it is quite amazing to be able to talk to someone who can integrate and synthesize data streams to provide insights in a considered and measured way. I hope you enjoy this conversation. Happy Listening!

This recording was made @Kreu the makerspace. So if you get the sense that we are in a large shed instead of a padded small room – you are right and I hope you will tolerate some incursions by dogs, squirrels, birds and humans – indelibly imprinted onto the recording.

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