Modeling the Fight against Flu: Researching Medication Strategies with Mathematica

Zhilan Feng, Purdue University

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"Mathematica is very unique in a sense that I can communicate with my non-mathematician collaborators by presenting results using interactive features in the visualizations, so the research can be more effective and more useful to the real systems."


Zhilan Feng, a professor of mathematics at Purdue University, is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a mathematical model for studying medication strategies for influenza, which has become increasingly important in the wake of the worldwide H1N1 outbreak.

Feng says Mathematica is the perfect tool for their study because it gives them the computational power to do very complicated mathematics while also providing the interactive capabilities to create user-friendly visualizations that policymakers can use to explore the consequences of their decisions. "With Manipulate, you can see the changes in the parameter values and associated changes in dynamics, and that makes the research much more efficient and saves time," says Feng. "It's easier for [policymakers] to see the link between their actions and the consequences, and then they can adjust their control strategies."

Another key advantage for Feng is Mathematica's Import function, which enables her team to immediately work with the most current influenza and H1N1 data available. "As more data about this outbreak becomes available, we can instantly import it, redo our calculations, and get better results. Then, we can improve predictions and design better control policies."

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