Sen Pei Receives Award from Research Corporation for Science Advancement and USDA

January 9, 2023

Sen Pei, PhD, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, is the recipient of a $50,000 pilot grant from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study zoonotic threats. Pei is one of 16 early career scientists to receive the award in the second year of the Scialog: Mitigating Zoonotic Threats initiative. Together with two other PIs (at Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai and USDA), Pei will undertake a project titled “Impact of Climate Variability on Foreign Animal Disease: Forecasting Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.”

The second meeting of the initiative, held earlier in the academic year, came as the COVID pandemic’s latest wave, resurgent avian influenza, and a growing global monkeypox outbreak served as reminders of the need for advances in the detection and mitigation of diseases that cross over from animal to human populations.

“Most emerging infectious diseases that affect people are zoonotic, and the rate of new disease emergence is unprecedented. Investing in innovation, and in our greatest assets – our scientists – is critical to supporting global public health and food security,” said Jeff Silverstein, Deputy Administrator, USDA/ARS. “Bringing people together from different disciplines makes better science.” said RCSA President & CEO Dan Linzer. "With partners who complement your own thinking and expertise, new directions become possible.”

An applied mathematician by training, Sen Pei studies the environmental, social, and ecological determinants of infectious diseases. He has developed mathematical models and computational tools to advance surveillance, forecasting, and control of seasonal and emerging infectious agents, focusing on respiratory viruses such as influenza and COVID-19 and antimicrobial-resistant pathogens in health-care systems.

Scialog  (short for “science ”+ “dialog”) was created in 2010 for creating interdisciplinary conversation and community building around a scientific theme of global significance. Planned before the COVID pandemic, the Mitigating Zoonotic Threats initiative has brought together researchers from a variety of disciplines including biology, chemistry, environmental science, computer modeling, ecology, epidemiology, physics, public health, and veterinary science.