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Alumnus Serving on NASEM Committee Exploring Indoor Air Management of Pathogens

Alumnus Lucas Rocha-Melogno (Ph.D.’21 Civil and Environmental Engineering) has been selected to serve on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) committee exploring the indoor air management of pathogens to help refine and inform public health decisions and guidance at the local, state, and federal levels.

Rocha-Melogno is currently a senior health scientist at ICF working on environmental epidemiology consulting projects. As a Ph.D. candidate at Duke, he studied how pathogens travel through the air and measured the risk they posed to populations with poor sanitation services and in indoor environments.

In 2020, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rocha-Melogno worked with Duke professors Marc Deshusses and Gregory Gray to develop a model for infection via aerosols and a web application for assessing the risk of airborne infections. The app allowed users to assess the risk of COVID infections in indoor social gatherings based on factors such as the length of exposure, the number of people, the size of the room, and the level of ventilation. The application has been used in over 50 countries worldwide.

As a member of the NASEM committee, Rocha-Melogno will help develop a workshop series that will convene stakeholders from across disciplines and sectors to explore strategies needed for airborne disease control and risk reduction in enclosed spaces, including schools and public transportation. The first workshop focused on scientific advances and gaps and had over 800 participants. The subsequent workshops in September 2022 will focus on the progress made in school buildings and urban public transportation, identifying promising practices and opportunities through practical case studies.