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Chinese overseas PhD students help map out pandemic situation

(People's Daily Online)    15:08, April 08, 2020

With COVID-19 spreading across the world, mainstream media and health departments of many countries are referring to the Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracking map created and maintained by two Chinese overseas PhD students when bringing up-to-date information about the epidemic to the public.


Dong Ensheng and Du Hongru, both first-year graduate students in civil and systems engineering at the Johns Hopkins University, were behind the mapping of the latest information on COVID-19.

Information on the dashboard includes global and national figures for the number of total confirmed cases, total deaths caused by COVID-19, as well as the total number of patients who have recovered.

Dong Ensheng's research direction uses mathematical models and computer codes to explain certain epidemiological and public health problems and makes basic judgments and predictions on the development trend of global epidemics.

In as early as May and June of last year, Dong Ensheng and his supervisor Professor Lauren Gardner created similar data visualization for a U.S. measles virus risk analysis project, which attracted some coverage in U.S. mainstream media.

"On Jan. 21 (of this year), we (Dong Ensheng and his supervisor) roughly agreed to make such a data chart," Dong said, adding that it took him about seven or eight hours to make the first version that night.

Then on Jan.22, his supervisor tweeted the chart to platforms around the world, according to Dong.

Dong Ensheng (left) and Du Hongru (Photo/

Today, the dashboard, which is being maintained by Dong, has become the most cited source of outbreak data for many governments, public health scholars and mainstream media.

By March 31, it had been used about 15.5 billion times worldwide, Dong said.

Du Hongru, also a first-year PhD student, joined the team on Feb. 1 and was initially responsible for data collection and comparison with WHO data. After the system was able to update the data automatically, his job was to write codes for the automatic upgrades, which requires a great deal of effort to ensure data uniformity and accuracy.

"Statistically, the U.S. is the worst-hit country in the world right now," Du Hongru said, noting that China's epidemic prevention and control sets a good example for other countries. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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