Department of Civil and Systems Engineering
Center for Systems Science and Engineering
Infectious disease spread
Lauren Gardner, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, is the creator of the interactive web-based dashboard being used by public health authorities, researchers, and the general public around the globe to track the outbreak of the novel coronavirus that has spread worldwide since early January, infecting more than 47 million and killing more than 1.2 million people around the world. The dashboard, which debuted on January 22, continues to be cited every day by multiple major media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, CNN, and many others across the country and around the world. It has served as a resource for a number of federal agencies, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s coronavirus task force. Since its launch, the dashboard has recorded 200 billion feature requests, which are the number of interactions visitors have with the underlying data available on the site. The dashboard has also recorded nearly 3 billion page views since January.
One of six Johns Hopkins experts who briefed congressional staff about the novel coronavirus outbreak during a Capitol Hill event in early March 2020, Gardner was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020 for “democratizing data” and filling “a void of public health leadership” during the pandemic. She and her team have been featured in a number of top-tier media outlets, from the Washington Post and CNN to CBS and NBC News, since March 2020.
A specialist in the role of mobility in spreading diseases, Gardner’s research expertise is in integrated transport and epidemiological modeling. For instance, in July 2020, she led a research team that found that residents in all 25 of the U.S. counties hardest hit by COVID-19 began to limit their public movements before states implemented stay-at-home orders. The decline in the number of daily trips people made, as tracked by mobile phone data, helped slow the spread of the virus. The results were published in The Lancet Infectious Disease journal.
In May 2019, Gardner developed a highly accurate method to identify which U.S. counties were at greatest risk of experiencing measles outbreaks and which were contributing the most measles risk in the U.S. Using mathematical modeling, the team combined an array of data, from variables that included the volume of international air travel, rates of measles outbreaks at origin of travel, U.S. childhood vaccination exemption rates, and population size.
Beyond mobility, her work focuses more holistically on virus diffusion as a function of climate, land use, and other contributing risk factors. Along these lines, Gardner leads COVID-19 modeling efforts in partnership with U.S. cities to develop customized models to estimate COVID-19 risk at the local level, and to optimize resource allocation for surveillance and targeted testing. Her group also contributes weekly COVID-19 case and death predictions to the CDC’s ensemble forecast through the COVID-19 Forecast Hub.
Gardner has received research funding from U.S. organizations including NIH, NSF, NASA, and the CDC, as well as various Australian federal funding organizations.
She has published 90 scholarly articles, letters, communications, and conference proceedings, and supervises a research group comprising four PhD students. Gardner is an invited member of multiple international professional committees and a reviewer for top-tier journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Lancet Infectious Diseases, and grant-funding organizations such as the National Science Foundation. She is an invited participant of various scientific advisory committees, including the U.S. Transportation Research Board Network Modeling Committee and the TRB Committee on Aviation Security and Emergency Management. She also has supervised more than 30 students and post-docs, and teaches undergraduate- and graduate-level courses on network modeling and transport systems at Johns Hopkins.
In addition to being named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020, Gardner was also included on BBC’s 100 Women List 2020: Women who led change; Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business for 2020; the Baltimore Sun’s 25 Women to Watch 2020; and the Baltimore Business Journal’s Best in Tech 2020. She was also a winner of the 2020 Route Fifty Navigator Award, which honors individuals and teams who, while working with or in state, county, or municipal governments, demonstrate their ability to implement a great idea that improves public sector services and the communities they serve.
Prior to joining JHU in 2019, Gardner was a senior lecturer in civil engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, in Australia.
She received her BSArchE in architectural engineering, her MSE in civil engineering, and her PhD in transportation engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.