The Path of a Sneeze
Lydia Bourouiba, faculty
What did high-speed cameras teach Bourouiba and colleagues about humble sneezes and coughs? They revealed the form our mucosalivary fluid takes as it launches from our bodies, morphing within a second from a balloon of fluid into a spray of droplets. Such insights could help to map the spread of infections in close quarters. According to Bourouiba, there are clear limits to the accuracy of data about transmission routes acquired via traditional low-tech methods such as surveying people about their movements and interactions: “We are trying to have direct measurements and experimentally validated mechanistic models of contamination risks to root disease control and prevention in the physical sciences.” Bourouiba is the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor of civil and environmental engineering, and associate faculty at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES).