A shout-out today to my friend and colleague Pardis Sabeti (and her lab) for their Science article on the Ebola virus that appeared earlier today. Pardis and her group have been studying the genetics of viral diseases, and in particular the Lassa virus. So they were there and ready when the recent Ebola virus began and went to work. They sequenced 99 Ebola virus genomes from 78 patients, and have analyzed the resulting information to gain insight into how the disease is spreading and mutating. They have released the genetic sequences to the public so that the information is available to groups who could use the sequencing to help find and test cures. This is both very important work, and (sadly) very serious. As reported, 5 co-authors of the study (health care workers, a lab technician, and the director of the national Lassa fever program in Sierra Leone) have died of Ebola before today's publication.
Numerous news articles appeared today discussing this work, too many for me to link to. But the SabetiLab page here contains a great deal of information about her research and various projects. Her work in biology, which makes powerful use of statistics and computation, should serve as an inspiration for future scientists, and for people who want to use algorithmic and mathematical methods in ways to benefit the world.