Katelyn M. Gostic

James S. McDonnell Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow

University of Chicago


I am a McDonnell Foundation Postdoc working with Sarah Cobey and Patrick Wilson at the University of Chicago. Previously, I received my PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UCLA, supervised by Jamie Lloyd-Smith, and an AB in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University.

I build mathematical and computaional models to study how infectious diseases emerge and spread.

I spent much of 2020 working with the Cobey lab to analyze COVID-19 data in real time and to support decision making in Illinois. Previously, I contributed research showing that airport traveler screening and fever screening is fundamentally ineffective to slow or prevent the spread of emerging infectious diseases. I am interested in identifying more effective surveillance and screening approaches to prevent the next pandemic.

Another focus of my reserach is understanding how early childhood influenza exposures shape lifelong immune memory. We gain particularly strong, lifelong protection against influenza viruses on the same branch of the genetic tree as the viruses that circulated when we were children. But this strong memory may come at the expense of equally strong protection against influenza viruses encountered later in life. As a postdoc, I am working to understand how these birth year-specific biases in immune memory develop, and how they shape the birth year-specific effectiveness of influenza vaccination.


July 14 2021 - I spoke today at the Columbia COVID-19 Virtual Symposium on the challenges of working with noisy, lagged, and incomplete epidemic data. We can build better computational tools and data sharing infrastructure to prevent the next pandemic.

June 22 2021 - Had a great time presenting at my first SER meeting.

May 16 2021 - "Fever checks are funamentally ineffective" to stop the spread of COVID-19. Read my take in this CNN piece.

Jan. 28 2021 - I really apreciate Jordana Cepelewicz's excellent work on this piece in Quanta magazine, which does an exceptional job explaining the challenges we faced in modeling COVID-19, and nicely captures the mood of the modeling community.

Oct. 20 2020 - I recently spoke with the Wall Street Joural, NBC, and Salon about the ineffectiveness of temperature screening for detection of COVID-19, and why rapid antigen testing would be much better!

Sept. 29 2020 - Our Rt paper was accepted at PLOS Computational Biology!

June 22 2020 - It can be incredibly challenging to estimate the effective reproductive number in real time. We summarize challenges and best practices in a new preprint.

March 20 2020 - I spoke with National Geographic about herd immunity, and why using it as a strategy to control of COVID-19 will cause unnecessary infections and deaths.

March 10 2020 - I worked behind the scenes with Brains On!, a NSF-funded science podcast for kids, on an episode about the new coronavirus.

Feb. 24 2020 - The Cobey lab is featured in the Chicago Tribune for our work on COVID-19.

Feb. 24 2020 - Our paper on the ineffectiveness of airport screening for SARS-CoV-2 is now out in eLife!

Dec. 19 2019 - Our study on how imprinting shapes risk from seasonal influenza just came out in PLOS Pathogens. Check it out!

Dec. 6 2019 - Seeing lots of great talks and eating lots of barbecue at Epidemics 2019 in Charleston!

Nov. 12 2019 - At the Gates Foundation today, discussing the idea of using Imprinting to develop better influenza vaccines.

Aug. 23 2019 - I'm starting a new postdoc in a few weeks! Excited to be working with Sarah Cobey and Patrick Wilson at the University of Chicago.

Aug. 2, 2019 - I'm officially done with my PhD!

June 2019 - What an honor to give a talk at EEID this year! Always great discussions and great people at this meeting. Already looking forward to next time.