Going Viral

Going Viral: The Spread of Illness, Imagery, and Information in the Modern World

The College Park Scholars annual theme brings our community together to engage in a shared intellectual experience. We take on a complex, multifaceted problem that demands thoughtful, creative, hands-on solutions. The annual theme and related programming afford us the opportunity to realize on a grand scale an idea that shapes everything we do in Scholars: We learn better when we learn together.

The Scholars theme for 2017-18 is tied to the program’s participation in Dr. Don Milton’s study of the roles of biomarkers, social networks, and buildings in the spread of flu viruses and other respiratory diseases. (For information on the study, go to https://catch.umd.edu/.) The study is focused on student residents (and those who come into contact with them) of three programs in College Park Scholars, across multiple residence halls. Students will have opportunities to participate not only as subjects in the study but as project assistants gaining valuable laboratory training and experience.

Our yearlong engagement with “Going Viral” will include lectures, panel discussions, films, and excursions aimed at creating interdisciplinary conversation and intellectual community across Scholars programs. The virus study serves as a springboard into a broader examination of how things spread in the physical and virtual environments of modern life. As important as biology, medicine, environmental studies, and public health are to such an inquiry, fields such as business, law, media, and art also shed light not only on how things spread but how we imagine and represent that spreading through narratives of outbreak and virality. How does fake news spread? Why do so many people believe the demonstrably false claims of pseudoscience? What makes a meme or a brand catch on in popular culture? To facilitate exploration of such questions, we’ve assembled a collection of readings, videos, and films that model the kind of inter- and cross-disciplinary conversation we hope to inspire. Check out our Going Viral Theme Readings, which include the following video, in which cognitive neuroscientist Sophie Scott explains what it is that makes laughter so contagious, connecting social science with neuroscience in this "viral" examination.

Further, we will engage with Scholars student groups -- including Scholars Promoting and Revitalizing Care (SPARC) and Real Talk, among others -- in examining the multitude of ways that support, positivity, and care for others can “go viral” as well. If you have ideas for programs and activities that might relate to “Going Viral,” talk to your program director or any member of the Scholars Central staff.


Beyond the Snot Study: Pandemic Flu, Sustainability, and Social Responsibility
A Conversation with Dr. Don Milton and Col. Matthew Hepburn
Wednesday, September 27, 7:00 PM
1205 Cambridge Community Center

Please join us for the kickoff event in the Going Viral series, sponsored by College Park Scholars as part of our third annual theme. All are welcome! Discussion and reception.

  • Learn more about C.A.T.C.H. (Characterizing And Tracking College Health), the virus study going on now in the Cambridge Community.
  • Hear two experienced clinicians and scientists talk about their careers, their work on infectious diseases, and how the research happening on campus contributes to better ways to prevent the spread of respiratory infectious diseases. 

Don Milton (MD, DrPH) is a professor of environmental health in the School of Public Health and leader of the C.A.T.C.H. the Virus Study research team. 

Col. Matthew Hepburn (MD) is a program manager in the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA is the lead funder of C.A.T.C.H.

Going Viral Film Series #1:  28 Days Later, in association with Cambridge Community Fall Fest
Monday, October 23, 7:30 PM
1100 Cambridge Community Center