Idea for Use in the Classroom

Pardis Sabeti uses computational models to study patterns in large amounts of data to learn more about how infectious diseases, such as the Ebola virus, spread quickly through populations. Assign students to small groups and have them explore the Seeking the Source of Ebola map, having each member of the group focus closely on one part of the map for a few minutes and then share with the whole group what they learned. Have each group come to a conclusion for how it is believed that Ebola spreads throughout Africa.

Next, have students examine human disease transmission more generally by using the Interactive Lab: Disease Labs Disease Simulator. Have small groups of students compare what they observe from this computational model with the conclusion they drew from the Ebola map.

Finally, have students read an April 2019 Ebola virus news update from the World Health Organization about the spread of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Have students analyze the graphs and tables contained in the news update. Based on their conclusions from the Ebola map of 2014–2015 and the computational model, have students design a poster for an education campaign that advises people on how to protect themselves from contracting Ebola.



harmful condition of a body part or organ.

model, computational

a mathematical model that requires extensive computational resources to study the behavior of a complex system by computer simulation.


sudden occurrence or rapid increase.


total number of people or organisms in a particular area.