Principal Investigator

Prof. Lydia Bourouiba

Associate Professor
Mechanical Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Core Faculty of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) Faculty
Affiliate Faculty of Harvard Medical School

77 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
lbouro at [preferred]
[Note: lbouro at is overflowing and replies are likely to be slow]


Biography and context of the research:

A physical applied mathematician by training, Prof. Lydia Bourouiba’s research has long encompassed her dual interests in fundamental questions in the quantitative sciences and real-life applications in health and epidemiology. Having conducted her doctoral research on theoretical and numerical studies of rotating homogeneous turbulence, she moved into mathematical modeling of infectious diseases and epidemiology for her early postdoctoral training. When joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty in 2014, Prof. Bourouiba synthesized her various research interests by founding and directing The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory whose goal it is to solve fundamental and open questions at the interface of fluid dynamics and disease transmission and to uncover the fundamental physical mechanisms that shape the epidemiology and disease transmission dynamics in human, animal and plant populations in addition to other fundamental open question in fluid dynamics as applied to environmental health and other areas at the interface of fluids and health.

Prof. Bourouiba’s curiosity-driven research interests and activities span a broad range of applied mathematics approaches in physics and biology, including developing first-of-its-kind fluid dynamic experiments at various scales to study fundamental physical mechanisms shaping microorganism and pathogen transport and persistence. She has worked on various fluid dynamics problems, from fundamentals in turbulence to interfacial flows, to recent work elucidated multi-scale dynamics of unsteady fluid fragmentation, droplet and bubble dynamics, and complex and multiphase flows with particular interest in the physics and biology that drive mixing, transport, persistence, and adaptation of pathogens relevant to contamination and health. Her work creatively leverages the synergistic interplay between theory development and mathematical modeling on the one hand and careful experimentation on the other. While her primary research interests are pursued in her Biosafety Level 2 and 2+ laboratories at MIT, Prof. Bourouiba collaborates extensively across MIT and with colleagues at major U.S. and European research centers, such as Boston University’s National Emergent Infectious Diseases Laboratory and Weill Cornell Medical Center, on questions of disease transmission of highly-pathogenic agents, within the Fluids and Health Network.

Prof. Bourouiba is the recipient of many awards and recognitions, including the Tse Cheuk Ng Tai’s Prize for Innovative Research in Health Sciences, the Ole Madsen Mentoring Award, and the Smith Family Foundation Odyssey Award for high-risk/high-reward basic science research. In 2021, she was named Senior Fellow of the Collegium Helveticum Institute for Advanced Studies, Zürich and was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society for her “fundamental work in quantitatively elucidating the mechanisms of droplet impact and fragmentation, and for pioneering a new field at the intersection of fluid dynamics and transmission of respiratory and foodborne pathogens, with clear and tangible contributions to public health.”  In 2022, she was elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering “for groundbreaking contributions to our fundamental understanding of unsteady fluid fragmentation and its application to the spread of contagious diseases.”

At MIT, Prof. Bourouiba founded The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory in 2014, when she was appointed as Assistant Professor, before being promoted to Associate Professor Without Tenure in 2019, to Associate Professor With Tenure in 2020, and to Core Faculty of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science in 2022.

Fluids and Health Conference and Network:

In 2019, Prof. Bourouiba founded and chaired the inaugural Fluids and Health Conference: Fluid dynamics of disease transmission to foster the growth of this exciting frontier area of research beyond the Bourouiba Group and define important key challenges at the interface of fluid dynamics and epidemiology/public health. She subsequently founded and will Chair the new Gordon Research Conference focused on Fluids and Health: Fluids in Disease Transmission and Contamination to be held in August 2022  to continue growing this critical frontier domain of research. If you wish to remain informed about the important research at the intersection of fluid dynamics and infectious disease transmission you can subscribe to the mailing list of the Fluids and Health Conference here or here for updates on this upcoming exciting new Gordon Research Conference on this frontier topic. 

For more on the laboratory's focus and discussions of implications for current COVID19 or other pandemics and critical public health questions, visit: TEDMED19, or IMES Feature 2015, Nature Feature 2016  or more recent COVID19 context discussion on routes of infectious disease transmission and urgent need to redefine the associated framework and to extend and root such epidemiological concepts in physical and biomedical mechanistic understanding.

For more, click on projects, publications, and involvement in context of COVID19 or more in the above tabs. 

More on highlight of path, research methodology and philosophy, scope and goals here.

Visit our LAB YouTube Channel (2020) for related materials.