Nathaniel Alter, Lindsay Slavit, Anna Smith

Students: Nathaniel Alter, Lindsay Slavit & Anna Smith

Project: Quantification of Risk Factors in Ebola Infection

View: Research Poster (PDF)

Institution: Lehigh University

Major: Industrial & Systems Engineering; Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering; Materials Science & Engineering

Advisor: Javier Buceta


Zoonotic diseases are spread across continents by animal carriers which are infected by the virus but can recover. In the case of Ebola-Virus, evidence supports that the main animal carrier is fruit bats. In the 2014-2016 outbreak, the virus traveled upwards of 3000 miles from its known origin. Not only is the virus lethal in humans (over 11,000 casualties in 2014 outbreak), but its spread could become a global epidemic. This project focuses precisely on the transition of Ebola-Virus from animal vectors to human carriers (i.e., “spillover”). Using readily available data over the African continent (e.g., demographics, urbanicity) we are trying to identify the probability of spillover for each region. We conducted a survey in Sierra Leone in which a set of questions focused on behaviors that put an individual at risk of exposure to Ebola-Virus and another set addressed socio-demographic characteristics and other quantities which are routinely collected for each region in the country. The survey data was processed to identify key variables that are best predictors of risky behavior and to establish a data-driven model that predicts risky behavior statistics for other regions and future times. This model will be combined with previously developed models assessing the density of Ebola infected bats over space and time in Africa, to compute the overall risk of a spillover to humans. Knowing when and where spillover is more likely to occur would allow for effective deployment of resources (e.g., drug supplies) and otherwise preventative measures (e.g., educational campaigns).

About Nathaniel Alter

Nathaniel Alter is a Sophomore Industrial and System Engineering Major with a Minor in Entrepreneurship from Glencoe Illinois. Nathaniel has been working on the Assessing the Socioeconomics Factors Underlying Ebola team since January of 2019 as a Global Social Impact Fellow where his Layman’s Summary of the team’s work was published in the Atlas of Science. As part of Nathaniel’s experience on the Provisional Board Grand Challenges Scholar Program, he was chosen to represent Lehigh University at the Global Grand Challenges Summit in London, England where he worked with undergraduate students from around the world to develop solutions to the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. Nathaniel is a member of Sigma Phi Delta, a Professional Engineering Fraternity at Lehigh University. In his free time Nathaniel enjoys exploring the outdoors and windsurfing on Lake Michigan.

About Lindsay Slavit

Lindsay Slavit is a senior from Long Island in Lehigh’s Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program majoring in Finance and Chemical Engineering, and minoring in Computer Science. Through the Global Social Impact Fellowship, Lindsay has been working on the Socioeconomic Factors Underlying Ebola Infection project since the beginning of 2019, and enjoys applying engineering techniques while considering human factors. She received the local American Chemical Society Outstanding Senior award for her work with this project. Lindsay is president of Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honors Society, at Lehigh and the Women’s Club Volleyball team as well. She is also the Director of Operations of the Lehigh FinTech Group, and a TA for basic engineering courses.

About Anna Smith

Anna Smith is a Sophomore Materials Science and Engineering student from Sacramento, California. Anna has been working on the Assessing the Socioeconomic Factors Underlying Ebola Infection project since January of 2019 as a Global Social Impact Fellow. She has an interest in Biomaterials and is fascinated by Epidemiology, which drew her to learn more about the project and eventually join the team. Her interest in disease and how it spreads has intensified since learning more about the potential of modeling techniques that could work to predict and prevent global health crises. Anna is also a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority at Lehigh University where she serves as the judicial chair.