Undergraduate Research

Ways To Get Involved

Projects


Interested in Math Bio or disease modeling? Contact Prof. Fox!

Confidence in Calculus I is recommended.


Resistance to Disinfectants (2021-22)

Modeling the effects of resistance to disinfectants on the transmission of nosocomial infections

Abstract: Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat, increasing the rate and complications of hospital-acquired infections. This study explores how resistance to disinfectants affects the spread of nosocomial diseases. An ODE compartmental model was created to describe the transmission of two strains of a generalized pathogen, resistant and susceptible to disinfectants, throughout a hospital ward. Transmission occurs directly and through contact with an environmental reservoir of pathogen. Evolution of resistance occurs through mutation and horizontal gene transfer. Different selection pressure magnitudes, and the ratio of disinfectant efficacy on resistant and susceptible strains, were tested. More people become infected overall, and a more significant proportion get the resistant strain, when the selection pressure for resistance is higher. In all simulations, the majority of transmission occurs directly, but as selection pressure increases, a more significant proportion of cases are caused by contact with the environmental reservoir. These results have important implications for infection management.


Presented at:

  • Feb. 2022: Annual meeting of the Mathematical Association of America, Florida section (poster)

  • Mar. 2022: Eckerd College Student Research Symposium (poster)

⭐︎ Winner of a poster award! ⭐︎

Mariana Olivares-Cely ('25), Prof. Fox

& Karin Ebey ('25)

Koi Herpesvirus (2021-22)

Kelsey Weeden ('23), Payton Bivens ('24)

& Prof. Fox

Mathematically modeling the transmission of koi herpesvirus in common carp

Abstract: Koi herpesvirus (KHV) is an extremely contagious virus that affects common carp. The virus is transmitted through direct contact with infected fish, contaminated fluids, or other contaminated vectors. In this study, we constructed an epidemiological model that uses a system of ordinary differential equations to describe the transmission dynamics of KHV. Classes include susceptible, exposed, infectious, ailing, and recovered. Some parameters of the model fluctuate with water temperature: the rate of progression through the exposed and infected compartments. Between five degrees celsius and twenty-eight degrees celsius, these progression rates are highest corresponding to when the virus is active. The goal of this study is to better understand the direct transmission of KHV before adding an environmental component to study transmission via contaminated water.


Presented at:

  • Feb. 2022: Annual meeting of the Mathematical Association of America, Florida section (poster)

  • Mar. 2022: Eckerd College Student Research Symposium (poster)

C. difficile and Healthcare Workers (2021-22)

Mathematically modeling the role of healthcare workers in the environmental transmission of C. difficile

Abstract: Clostridioides difficile is the leading cause of infectious diarrhea and one of the most common healthcare-acquired infections in United States hospitals. C. difficile persists well in healthcare environments because it forms spores that can survive for long periods of time and can be transmitted to susceptible patients through contact with contaminated hands and surfaces that can harbor infectious agents, called fomites. This study explores an alteration of a previous model to include healthcare workers as a transmission vector in conjunction with high-touch and low-touch fomites. The transmission is described by a system of ordinary differential equations representing four patient classes, two pathogen environmental reservoirs, and two healthcare worker groupings. Parameters have a significant effect on the incidence and three different parameter scenarios were explored. The goal of this study was to successfully alter the pre-existing model to encompass the healthcare workers as a transmission vector.


Presented at:

  • Feb. 2022: Annual meeting of the Mathematical Association of America, Florida section (poster)

⭐︎ Winner of Best Student Poster Presentation! ⭐︎

  • Mar. 2022: Eckerd College Student Research Symposium (poster)

Kath Fillman ('22), Isaac Blackburn ('22)

& Prof. Fox

COVID-19 at Eckerd College (2020-21)

Prof. Fox, Alyssa Bernstein ('24)

& Madyson Woodburn ('24)

Mathematically modeling the transmission of COVID-19 at Eckerd College

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges for colleges and universities around the world. Schools must maintain their academic standards while also implementing a strong response to the virus. In particular, small liberal arts colleges, such as Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, have limited housing space available but must provide enough quarantine beds to support a small outbreak. In this study, we constructed an epidemiological model that uses a system of ordinary differential equations to describe the dynamics of transmission of COVID-19 on Eckerd College’s campus. The classes of the model include susceptible, asymptomatic, infectious, and recovered, as well as three different quarantine classes used to incorporate Eckerd’s testing approach. The goal of the model is to estimate the number of quarantine beds Eckerd College will need.


Presented at:

  • Feb. 2021: Annual meeting of the Mathematical Association of America, Florida section (talk)

  • Mar. 2021: Eckerd College Student Research Symposium (poster)