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 study how infectious diseases emerge and spread, using a combination of models and data.

One of my main research interests is understanding how childhood immune imprinting and individual exposure history shapes immunity to future flu infections. The cross-protective relationships among influenza virus strains inform the distribution of pre-exising population immunity, which in turn shapes global epidemiology and determines the fitness landscapes onto which new influenza variants emerge. My dissertation research demonstrated the impact of immune imprinting, in which an individual's first childhood infection with influenza provides preferential, lifelong protection against antigenically similar influenza strains. But this strong memory may come at the expense of equally strong protection against dissimilar influenza viruses encountered later in life. My PhD research showed that birth year-specific differences in immune imprinting predictably impact which cohorts are at greatest risk of severe cases during influenza outbreaks caused by both seasonal and zoonotic (avian) strains. As a postdoc, I am working to understand how these birth year-specific biases in immune memory develop, and how they interact with influenza vaccination.

A second arm of my research focuses on rational risk assessment for emerging infectious diseases. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked with the Cobey Lab to support epidemic response in the state of Illinois. I also led modeling studies to assess the effectiveness of traveler screening at airports, and to establish best practices for estimating the time-varying effective reproductive number, Rt. Previously, I have worked with data from animal model experiments to assess the transmissibility of emerging avian influenza subtypes, and the mechansims of infection by bacterial pathogens of the genus Leptospira


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.