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From the College of Natural Sciences
Professor Layla Parast Aims to Improve Healthcare Using Biostatistics

Professor Layla Parast Aims to Improve Healthcare Using Biostatistics

New faculty members in the College of Natural Sciences take on the important roles of mentor and researcher, always pushing the limits of science and inspiring their pupils. This academic year, we gained faculty members whose compelling character and work are worth learning about. Meet new statistics and data science professor, Layla Parast, whose work in biostatistics aims to improve medical treatments and trial outcomes.

UT Austin Offers New Undergraduate Major in Statistics and Data Science

UT Austin Offers New Undergraduate Major in Statistics and Data Science

With statistics and data science among the fastest-growing fields in the United States, The University of Texas at Austin will offer an undergraduate degree in these fields for the first time beginning in the fall of 2022.

COVID Forecasting Method Proves It Can Reliably Guide City's Response

COVID Forecasting Method Proves It Can Reliably Guide City's Response

Illustration by Jenna Luecke

Using cellphone mobility data and COVID-19 hospital admissions data, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have reliably forecast regional hospital demands for almost two years, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The forecasting system, which municipal authorities credit with helping Austin maintain the lowest COVID-19 death rate among all large Texas cities, has been built out for use by 22 municipal areas in Texas and can be used by any city to guide COVID-19 responses as the virus continues to spread.

Adapting the Frequency of COVID-19 Testing Depending on Transmission Rate and Community Immunity

Adapting the Frequency of COVID-19 Testing Depending on Transmission Rate and Community Immunity

Illustration by Jenna Luecke

Expanding rapid testing stands out as an affordable way to help mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 and emerging variants. Infectious disease researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new model that tailors testing recommendations to new variants and likely immunity levels in a community, offering a new strategy as public health leaders seek a way out of a pandemic that has so far thwarted the best efforts to end its spread. It is the first study to identify optimal levels of testing in a partially immunized population.

Research on Language Learning Yields Mitchell Prize for UT Austin Statisticians

Research on Language Learning Yields Mitchell Prize for UT Austin Statisticians

A cross-disciplinary team including University of Texas at Austin statisticians Giorgio Paulon and Abhra Sarkar have received the Mitchell Prize, a top prize in the field, for their study modeling what happens in the brains of nonnative English speakers learning another language's tonal differences.

Natural Sciences Welcomes Two Visiting Harrington Faculty Fellows

Natural Sciences Welcomes Two Visiting Harrington Faculty Fellows

The College of Natural Sciences will welcome two members of the Harrington Faculty Fellows Program, which supports a group of visiting scholars each year.

System Linked to Operational Hospitals, Shorter Lockdowns, Lives Saved

System Linked to Operational Hospitals, Shorter Lockdowns, Lives Saved

COVID-19: Risk-Based Guidelines with 7 Day Moving Averages for New Admissions were made available for the Austin metropolitan area as part of a staged alert system. Shown is the City of Austin dashboard for June 16. Credit: City of Austin

A staged alert system, designed by scientists and public health officials to guide local policies, helped one city prevent hospital surges and long lockdowns, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications.

Forecasting Resources Needed to Protect People Experiencing Homelessness During COVID-19

Forecasting Resources Needed to Protect People Experiencing Homelessness During COVID-19

A new study provides public health planning authorities with a method of calculating the number of COVID-19 isolation beds they would need for people experiencing homelessness based on level of infection in the city. The research holds promise for controlling spread of the virus – or future infectious diseases – in a population that is highly vulnerable and less likely than many others to access health care services.

Two CNS Faculty Receive President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Awards

Two CNS Faculty Receive President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Awards

Laura Lashinger (left) and Sally Ragsdale are recipients of the annual President's Associates Teaching Excellence Awards.

Laura Lashinger and Sally Ragsdale, two College of Natural Sciences faculty members, have been named recipients of the annual President's Associates Teaching Excellence Award for the 2020-2021 academic year. The award recognizes the university's educational innovators who demonstrate exceptional undergraduate teaching in the core curriculum, including signature courses, and engage with curriculum reform and educational innovation.

Undetected Coronavirus Variant Was in at Least 15 Countries Before its Discovery

Undetected Coronavirus Variant Was in at Least 15 Countries Before its Discovery

Illustration: Jenna Luecke

A highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 variant was unknowingly spreading for months in the United States by October 2020, according to a new study from researchers with The University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. Scientists first discovered it in early December in the United Kingdom, where the highly contagious and more lethal variant is thought to have originated. The journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which has published an early-release version of the study, provides evidence that the coronavirus variant B117 (501Y) had spread across the globe undetected for months when scientists discovered it.

Repeated Testing for COVID-19 is Vital, Economic and Public Health Analysis Shows

Repeated Testing for COVID-19 is Vital, Economic and Public Health Analysis Shows

As a new presidential administration takes steps to examine options to control the spread of COVID-19 through increased testing, epidemiologists at The University of Texas at Austin and other institutions have a new analysis that shows the value of having all people in the U.S. tested on a regular, rotating basis to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and the loss of life from COVID-19. The team's model is outlined in a paper published online today in The Lancet Public Health.

New Dashboards Launched to Track COVID-19 Across Texas Communities

New Dashboards Launched to Track COVID-19 Across Texas Communities

The University of Texas at Austin's COVID-19 Modeling Consortium has launched a new online dashboard to track the spread and impact of the virus, including in hospitals across Texas, with detailed information for 22 areas.

Early Spread of COVID-19 Appears Far Greater Than Initially Reported

Early Spread of COVID-19 Appears Far Greater Than Initially Reported

Patients with undiagnosed flu symptoms who actually had COVID-19 last winter were among thousands of undetected early cases of the disease at the beginning of this year. In a new paper in The Lancet's open-access journal EClinicalMedicine, epidemiological researchers from The University of Texas at Austin estimated COVID-19 to be far more widespread in Wuhan, China, and Seattle, Washington, weeks ahead of lockdown measures in each city.

New Tool to Guide Decisions on Social Distancing Uses Hospital Data and Emphasizes Protecting the Vulnerable

New Tool to Guide Decisions on Social Distancing Uses Hospital Data and Emphasizes Protecting the Vulnerable

With communities throughout the United States combating surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Northwestern University have created a framework that helps policymakers determine which data to track and when to take action to protect their communities. The model specifies a series of trigger points to help local entities know when to tighten social distancing measures to prevent hospitals from being overrun by virus patients. The method also aims to minimize the economic impact to communities by suggesting the earliest times for safely relaxing restrictions.

New Online Master’s Degree in Data Science is a First for The University of Texas at Austin

New Online Master’s Degree in Data Science is a First for The University of Texas at Austin

In response to high demand for professionals with scientific and technical training to understand and work with massive amounts of data, The University of Texas at Austin is set to launch a new online master's degree program in data science. Pending final approval by UT System and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the new program will be a collaboration between the Department of Computer Science, ranked among the top 10 programs in the country by U.S. News and World Report; the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences, one of the university's newest and fastest-growing departments; and online learning company edX.