Dr. Ottar N. Bjornstad
Dr. Ottar Bjornstad researches population dynamics of epidemiological and ecological outbreaks. Focal systems include human infections like measles, whooping cough, rubella and influenza; animal infections like rabies, hantavirus and distemper; and outbreaks of various insects of biomedical and agricultural concern. He has expertise in statistical and computational approaches to the study of spatiotemporal dynamics, including the development of a suite of statistical methods for the analysis of spatial and temporal data as implemented in various R-packages. His expertise has been used in an advisory capacity for outbreak control and mitigation by the NIH Fogarty International Centre, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Norwegian Veterinary Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Bjornstad (co-)teach disease dynamics to the public as part of PSUs ‘Epidemics’ Massive Open Online Course (https://www.coursera.org/learn/epidemics). The course has engaged >90,000 learners from 182 different countries since 2014. The course is among the top ranked science MOOCs on coursetalk.org.
Dr. Ottar Bjornstad is on Penn States Graduate faculty in Biology, Entomology, Ecology, Statistics and MCIBS. The overall goal is to provide trainees at all levels with rigorous qualifications in computational / statistical / mathematical biology to aid their pursuit of primary research questions in the life sciences. Recently, Dr. Bjornstad has emphasized the importance of reproducible data science, so all mentees and students are exposed to and required to use one or more currently developing platforms among Rmarkdown, GitHub, Knitr and Shiny. Dr. Bjornstad currently teaches a 15-week ‘Infectious Disease Dynamics’ graduate class. The class consists of 28 2-hour computer workshops based on the ‘Epidemics: Models and Data in R’ textbook (Bjornstad 2018) as augmented by the epidmr R-package (https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=epimdr) and a suite of ShinyApps to study mathematical models (https://github.com/objornstad/ecomodelmarkdowns). Dr. Bjornstad has previous (co-)taught graduate classes on Population Dynamics, Advanced Ecology and ‘Ecological Models and Data’. He has also taught numerous intensive graduate immersions including international workshops in South Africa, Brazil and Norway. During his tenure at Penn State, Dr. Bjornstad has graduated eight PhDs (7 female, 1 male), five of which are university faculty (Cornell, Ohio State, Penn State, Montana State, Western Washington) and one senior research associate (Colorado State). Dr. Bjornstad has further (co-)mentored ten post-doctoral fellows (5 female, 5 male) with current academic positions in US, Norway, Japan, India and China.
Dr. Bjornstad was the founding co-Director of PSUs Center for Infectious Disease dynamics (2004-2009). He has served on the advisory board to NSF’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (2008-12) and as a permanent member of the NIH/DHS program on ‘Research and Policy in Infectious Disease Dynamics (RAPIDD)’ (2009-15), as well as numerous university-wide governing bodies including program committes for several PSUs graduate programs (including 5 years as chair of Biology admission), the Institute of Computational Science, the Task-force on Advanced Scientific Computing and the Pest Prediction and Response strategic initiative team.
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