MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology

BLOSSOMS Rushes to Release High School Learning Videos on Flu

September 17, 2009

MIT LINC’s BLOSSOMS Initiative is hurrying to release two video lessons for high school classes on influenza, hoping to provide valuable insight and information in the face of the emerging global outbreak. The two learning videos, Flu Math Games and The Biology of Flu, have been created by faculty, researchers and students at MIT in Cambridge, MA. These educational videos – using the unique BLOSSOMS ‘interactive’ pedagogy - are designed to afford students a better understanding of the causation and spread of this very important human disorder.

Professor Richard Larson, the Mitsui Professor of Engineering Systems and Director of the Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals at MIT, - along with students, Dr. Sahar Hashmi and Mai Perches – has created Flu Math Games video. The goals of this video are: to show students that math can play a role in understanding how an infectious disease spreads and can be controlled; to have the students see and use both deterministic and probabilistic models; to learn by doing via role-playing. Dr. Larson's specialty is Operations Research, an interdisciplinary field that uses mathematics and the scientific method to improve decision-making in industry and government. His current major research project is pandemic influenza, in particular focusing on steps that individuals can take to reduce to chances of becoming infected with the flu virus.

The second video, The Biology of Flu, has been created by Stan N. Finkelstein, MD, Senior Research Scientist, MIT Engineering Systems Division and Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Finkelstein has been assisted by MIT student, Dr. Sahar Hashmi. The goals of this video include the following: to provide fundamental scientific content on the biology of viruses, including their structure, other properties, and the manner in which they infect human cells; to illustrate, in the context of influenza, the role a virus plays in the causation of human disease; and to use the behavior of the flu virus as a stimulus for discussion of how students and their families can reduce the risks of contracting the flu during a seasonal outbreak or pandemic. Dr. Finkelstein is a specialist in health care policy and works actively on preparedness for public health emergencies. Dr. Hashmi is currently a graduate student at MIT doing research on pandemic flu spread and its relation to behavioral changes using non-pharmaceutical interventions.