An MIT Alumni Association Publication

To help the public make sense of news about the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, Covid-19, media outlets are turning to experts in fields ranging from epidemiology to economics. Many of these experts, including those quoted in the selections below, have something powerful in common: a degree from MIT.

Have you spotted other MIT alumni voices in coverage of the pandemic? Leave them in the comments below. And to read up on how MIT faculty and staff—including those who are also MIT alums—are contributing to the coronavirus conversation, visit MIT News.



“This approximate consensus [on the infection parameter R] so early in the pandemic gave modelers a chance to warn of this new pathogen’s epidemic and pandemic potential less than three weeks after the first Disease Outbreak News report was released by the World Health Organization.”

Maimuna Majumder SM ’15, PhD ’18 (Engineering Systems), computational epidemiologist, Harvard Medical School

 “Mathematics of life and death: How disease models shape national shutdowns and other pandemic policies” (Science Magazine, March 25, 2020)


 “I think the answer will be, aerosolization occurs rarely but not never. You have to distinguish between what’s possible and what’s actually happening.”

Stanley Perlman PhD ’72 (Biology), professor of microbiology and immunology and professor of pediatrics, University of Iowa

 “The new coronavirus can likely remain airborne for some time. That doesnt mean we’re doomed.” (STAT, March 16, 2020)


“If you do some back-of-envelope calculations, you will find that if you go to any airport around the world at any given moment…only one in five [people] have clean hands.”

Christos Nicolaides SM 11, PhD ’14 (Civil and Environmental Engineering), lecturer, University of Cyprus; digital fellow, MIT Sloan School of Management

Scrubbing up: Airport hand hygiene could slow pandemics” (Airport Technology, March 26, 2020)


“What we have found in this data is that adults aged 20–50 make most of their contacts in workplaces. If those of us who can work remotely start doing so now, it will contribute to lowering overall transmission in the population.”

Petra Klepac PhD ’07 (Biology, WHOI), assistant professor of infectious disease modelling, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

“What we scientists have discovered about how each age group spreads Covid-19” (The Guardian, March 17, 2020)


“What’s important to note is that with the severe reduction in travel to the state and with only limited localized community spread at this time, we have a real chance to stamp out Covid-19 here.”

Sarah Park ’91 (Biology), state epidemiologist, Hawaii Department of Health

“Hawaii reports 29 new Covid-19 cases, the largest jump in a single day” (Honolulu Civil Beat, March 28, 2020)


“There is no known precedent for this type of extensive social distancing in recent time. We have nothing to compare this to, but this extreme drop [of people with flu-like symptoms in the US] is exactly what we would hope and expect with the measures currently in place.”

Inder Singh MBA ’06, SM ’07 (Management, Health Sciences and Technology), founder and CEO, Kinsa

"Social distancing is slowing not only Covid-19, but other diseases too” (Quartz, March 25, 2020)


“Closing schools, bars, and movie theaters are good measures, but not enough. Our relaxed approach to social distancing is insufficient to stop the exponential growth of Covid-19.”

—Yaneer Bar-Yam ’78, PhD ’84 (Physics), founding president, New England Complex Systems Institute

 “We need an immediate five-week national lockdown to defeat coronavirus in America” (USA Today, March 21, 2020)


“Testing for the coronavirus can be performed using a nasal swab (the equivalent of putting a Q-Tip in your nostril). There is little scientific reason as to why this can’t be done by people at home under the direction of a doctor.”

Shantanu Nundy ’04 (Management), chief medical officer at Accolade, Inc.

“We need smart solutions to mitigate the coronavirus’s impact. Here are 12” (Washington Post [subscription required], March 20, 2020)


“I do think immunizing people against influenza has a very important indirect effect [that would] make us much more efficient in detecting coronavirus.”

Albert Ko ’81 (Biology, Chemistry), department chair and professor of epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health

 “A flu shot won’t prevent coronavirus, but it could help our response to the outbreak” (Live Science, March 7, 2020)


“If all seven of the infectious disease doctors are forced to be quarantined at once, the department has lost all its expertise for two weeks minimum.… This may well change the practice of ambulatory care in America for the long haul.”

Mark Pasternack ’71 (Biology), chief of pediatric infectious disease unit, Massachusetts General Hospital

“An infectious disease expert explains how he stays safe during the Covid-19 pandemic and the hardest precaution he’s had to take” (Business Insider, March 21, 2020)



“Whereas 10 days ago there was some legitimate uncertainty about whether the global economy was in the process of going into recession—10 days later, there’s no question that it is.”

David Wilcox PhD ’87 (Economics), senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics

The global coronavirus recession is beginning” (CNN, March 16, 2020)


“A virus knows no borders, as we have already seen with the real-world outbreak, and here a concerning change is heightened mistrust among countries.”

Kathleen Hicks PhD ’10 (Political Science), VP and director, International Security Program at Center for Strategic and International Studies

“We predicted a coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what policymakers could have seen coming” (Politico, March 7, 2020)


“Covid-19 is both a current emergency and a phenomenon that will have long-term effects on vulnerable populations and the viability of some of the nonprofits that serve them.”

Barbara Fields MCP ’85 (DUSP), president and CEO, Greater Worcester Community Foundation

“GWCF creates $535K coronavirus response fund” (Worcester Business Journal, March 18, 2020)


The fundamental principle is to increase the likelihood that spendable cash sent to consumers will be spent immediately. Regardless of the details of such stimulus program, that principle should be observed.”

Herbert Lin ’73, ScD ’79 (Physics), senior research scholar for cyber policy and security, Stanford University

“We need smart solutions to mitigate the coronavirus’s impact. Here are 12” (Washington Post [subscription required], March 20, 2020)


“If your own income is secure, you can redirect funds you would have been spending on commuting, movies, or restaurants to those who don’t have the privilege of a steady paycheck or stable housing.”

Dean Karlan PhD ’02 (Economics), professor of economics and finance, Kellogg School of Management, and codirector, Global Poverty Research Lab, Northwestern University

“Some ways people can help soften the economic impact of the coronavirus” (Washington Post [subscription required], March 16, 2020)


“It’s not the time to get boring, even in your planning. We have to be planning for exciting, important art, more than ever.”

Michael Kaiser SM ’77 (Management), chairman, DeVos Institute of Arts Management, University of Maryland

“The virus has arts groups hanging by a thread. Michael M. Kaiser has ideas about saving them” (Washington Post [subscription required], March 19, 2020)


 “No small business owner wants to see their employees suffer or struggle. We’d move mountains to guarantee their wellbeing if we could.”

—J. Kenji López-Alt ’02 (Architecture), chief culinary consultant, Serious Eats; chef/partner, Wursthall Restaurant and Bierhaus

“Food safety and coronavirus: A comprehensive guide” (Serious Eats, March 30, 2020)


“If any leader is prepared to manage their business through uncertainty, it’s a leader that has planned for the unplanned.”

—Meghan Marie McCormick MBA ’18 (Management), cofounder and CEO, OZE, Inc.

“The Africa List moves to build leaders online in response to Covid-19” (ForbesWomen, March 23, 2020)

Illustration: Jesse Hernandez/MIT Alumni Association


Janet Freeman-Daily

Sat, 04/11/2020 1:13pm

"I know many patients with lung cancer whose cancer is progressing. They’re trying to decide whether to have a bronchoscopy, start chemotherapy, pursue clinical trials, or just wait a few months to see what happens. Tough choices when entering a hospital increases exposure risks."

Janet Freeman-Daily, '78
Lung cancer patient/activist, cofounder The ROS1ders

The One-Two Punch: Cancer And Coronavirus, Forbes, March 20, 2020

Henry Miller

Sat, 04/11/2020 1:53pm

I've been writing prolifically about the pandemic: I've also been quoted in the press innumerable times -- Fox News, Yahoo Finance, etc. -- and am a regular commentator on the nationally-syndicated radio programs of John Batchelor and Lars Larson.

Anyone interested in being notified of my future articles can sign up on the above website, by clicking on "Mailing List."

Henry Miller, B.S. '69 VII

Joanne Spetz

Sat, 04/11/2020 4:21pm

I’ve been involved in supporting California and national workforce surge planning for COVID-19. You can find some of the resources and press coverage at More ideas can be found in NEJM:

Mark Manton

Sun, 04/12/2020 7:42pm

Bowties are used to give a visual display showing the preventative barriers that prevent a "threat" leading to a "top event" (when things start to go wrong) and the mitigation barriers between the top event and the worst possible consequence, I led the team developing the bowtie for Covid-19 that is now published as a monograph on the CCPS / AIChE web site:
and also on the (UK) Energy Institute's web site:

What this tells you is that there are only 2 barriers preventing you getting infected via the air and 3 via surface contact.

Daniel Chen

Tue, 04/14/2020 8:47pm

I worked on Early Events in Coronavirus Infection for my PhD as part of an MD PhD at USC following MIT. Following that, I completed medical training in Medical Oncology and a Post Doc in Immunology at Stanford. I've contributed to and continue to contribute to the scientific and clinical effort for COVID19. Our ability to work together and innovate our way beyond this pandemic has never been more crucial.

“My greatest fear is that this gets taken to an extreme, where people are using whatever they can get their hands on to turn off the immune response,” says Daniel Chen, an immunologist and chief medical officer at IGM Biosciences in Mountain View, California. “You can’t knock down the immune system at a time when it’s battling an infection.” -Daniel S. Chen MD PhD MIT Class of 1990.

"Chen notes that although IL-6 levels are high in some acutely ill patients, viral loads are high as well, suggesting that the body is still fighting off an active viral infection. “You have to assume that there’s an ongoing antiviral immune response that is important to these patients,” he says. If so, then reducing CD4 and CD8 T cells could undermine that response."