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Life and Death in Data: Plagues, Pestilence, and Pandemics

Why should I take this Trinity Elective?

Infectious diseases with pandemic potential have emerged regularly throughout history while epidemics are an ongoing problem that populations across the globe deal with on a regular basis. From the Black Death to COVID-19, this module will explore the science, history, and mystery of pandemic disease. When will the Next Big One emerge and how can we prepare for it? Are pandemics independent misfortunes, or linked? Are we causing them? Through this module we will learn how COVID fits into earlier pandemics in human history, and how our economic, social, political and medical responses compare with how people have dealt with pandemics at different points in history. We will also work to develop our statistical literacy, understand key infectious disease metrics, and learn how to identify misrepresentations and misinterpretations of data.

What will I learn?

  • You will consider historical and contemporary texts that deal with the impacts of mass death spanning accounts of the demise of Athenian democracy to Maggie O’ Farrell’s novel ‘Hamnet’.
  • You will learn what pathogens are, how we can study their genomes and what they can tell us about the spread of disease.
  • You will learn to interpret quantitative data and statistics and communicate clear messages about health data.

What will I do?

  • Attend a diverse set of lectures spanning temporal and textual analysis of pandemic to the basic statistics of infectious disease.
  • Participate in interdisciplinary workshops during which you can engage with lecturers, guest speakers and peers.
  • Complete problem-based online activities linked to topics covered in the lectures.
  • Work within small interdisciplinary teams to create engaging content that motivates the public to understand pandemic outbreaks.

How will this be delivered?

  • Online and face-to-face lectures from leading academics in history, medicine, classics and genetics (~18 hours).
  • Tutorial on curatorial assessment focussed on collections housed in the Anatomy Museum, Trinity College Dublin (~2 hour).
  • 4 interdisciplinary workshops/discussion forums(~5 hours).
  • Participation in online web-supported discussion platforms and blogs.

How will this be assessed?

  • Individual MCQ and on-line written assessment after completion of elective (45%)
  • Small group work - social media content creation related to elective (45%)
  • Participation in workshops and tutorials (10%)

Who can take this Trinity Elective?

  • Any student eligible to take a Trinity Elective can select this Trinity Elective except for the students from the following programmes: Microbiology. Also any students taking the Trinity Elective TEU00512 Vaccines - Friend or Foe? cannot select this Trinity Elective.

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