Alessandro Vespignani

Forecasting the next outbreak

Sternberg Family Distinguished University Professor of Physics, Computer Sciences, and Health Sciences, College of Science, Khoury College of Computer Sciences, and Bouvé College of Health Sciences

Professor Vespignani directs Northeastern’s Network Science Institute, which develops analytical and computational models of evolving complex social, technological, and biological networks, such as workplaces, mobile phone networks, and defined populations. He has pioneered the use of data science and computational tools to forecast the spread of infectious diseases and global epidemics, including flu, Ebola, and Zika, and to predict the impact of vaccines, policy interventions, and social and geopolitical factors. 

Currently Vespignani is a principal researcher on a multiuniversity team that is advising the White House using predictive models of the COVID-19 pandemic and mapping the outbreak to help plan better interventions. To generate its projections, the team’s models combine data about aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, such as its virulence and contagiousness, with specific policies, such as airport closures and social distancing. Their models are constantly updated and refined. 

Vespignani’s research interests also encompass physics and network theory. Vespignani earned his doctorate in physics from Sapienza University of Rome.