Pandemics Course

12-week online course, covering technical and policy efforts to prevent, detect and respond to catastrophic pandemics

The world witnessed the severe humanitarian and economic repercussions of pandemic pathogens during COVID-19 crisis, and we remain dangerously unprepared for future pandemics.

With the rate of zoonotic pathogen spread increasing and rapid technological advances in synthetic biology and AI, there exists the possibility of far deadlier pandemics, but also new opportunities to defend against them.

This course covers technical and policy efforts to prevent, detect and respond to catastrophic pandemics. You’ll meet others who are excited to help mitigate risks from pandemics, and explore opportunities for your next steps in the field.

You’ll also join over 100 course graduates in the Biosecurity Fundamentals community. This a space to evaluate and debate ideas with others, and grow your network to foster future opportunities in biosecurity.

The course is run by BlueDot Impact – a non-profit that supports people to develop the knowledge, skills and connections they need to pursue a high-impact career.

The deadline to apply to the next round of the course is 5th May 2024.

Why do the course

You’ll learn about key ideas from a structured curriculum. It is difficult to know where to start when trying to learn about biosecurity for the first time. The programme will give you the structure and accountability you need to explore the potential sources of pandemic risk and solutions that have been put forward so far, and give you a framework to evaluate future biosecurity interventions.

Your learning is facilitated by experts. Your facilitator will help you navigate the course content, develop your own views on each topic, and foster constructive debate between you and fellow participants.

You’ll be learning alongside others. Your cohort will be made up of people who are similarly new to biosecurity, but who will bring a wealth of different expertise and perspectives to your discussions. Many participants form long-lasting and meaningful connections, that support them to take their first steps in the field.

You’ll be supported to take your next steps. This could involve doing further work on your end-of-course project, applying for programmes and jobs, or doing further independent study. We maintain relationships with a large network of organisations and will share opportunities with you. Additionally, with your permission, we can help make connections between you and recruiters at top organisations.

You’ll join over 100 course alumni. We’ve helped over 100 people learn via our Pandemics course. You’ll gain access to this network, and to many others who join in future rounds of the course.

Who this course is for

We think this course will particularly be able to help you if:

  • You have a technical background (particularly in biosciences, engineering, materials or data science), and want to learn about how you can use your skills to contribute to pandemic risk mitigation.

  • You have policy experience, and are keen to apply your skills to reducing risk from pandemics.

  • You are early in your career or a student who is interested in exploring a future career in technical or policy areas to reduce risk from pandemics.

We expect at least 25% of the accepted participants will not fit any of these descriptions, so we still encourage you to apply if none of those resonate with you. There are many different types of fields and backgrounds that can contribute to biosecurity. This is very much a field that benefits from diversity of thought, expertise and perspectives, and we can’t capture all of them in this list.

What this course is not

This course might not be right for you if you are looking for:

  • A course that covers all possible public health and biosecurity concerns. Instead, our course primarily focuses on focuses on mitigating the risk from the most catastrophic pandemics. That said, many of the methods to prevent, detect and respond to large-scale outbreaks are also likely to be beneficial to public health more broadly.
  • A biosafety accreditation. For that, we recommend looking at IFBA or ABSA.

Course Structure

The course comprises 8 weeks of reading and small-group discussions, followed by a 4-week capstone project. The time commitment is around 5 hours per week, so you can engage with the course alongside full-time work or study.

Weeks 1-8 – Taught Content

This is where you’ll work through the main course curriculum. Each week involves 2-3 hours of readings and independent exercises, plus a 2-hour live session (via video call, which we’ll arrange at a time that suits you).

The live sessions are where you work through activities with your cohort of around 6 other participants. These sessions are facilitated by experts in biosecurity, who can help you navigate the field and answer questions.

If accepted onto the course, we’ll ask for your availability so we can find a time slot that suits you (including evening or weekend sessions). There’s flexibility to change sessions in case your availability changes.

Compared to studying the curriculum independently, participants tell us they really value the live cohort sessions as the facilitator helps create an engaging discussion space, the activities are designed to enable effective learning, and you develop deep relationships with highly motivated peers.

After finishing the taught content phase you’ll receive a certificate of completion.

Weeks 8-12 – Project Sprint

The project stage is an opportunity for you to put the knowledge and skills you’ve gained during the first 8 weeks into practice.

It’s up to you what idea you’d like to work on. In case you want suggestions, we’ll have a list of projects that we think would be valuable based on our experience and connections with field experts.

Once you’ve got your idea, we’ll introduce you to a cohort of people working on similar projects. You’ll work on your project independently, and can put as much time as you’d like into it. Each week you’ll review your progress and receive feedback in 1-2 hour facilitated online discussions with your cohort.

At the end of the project stage, you’ll share your project with other people on the course. And of course, you’ll be able to talk about your experience completing this project when applying for future opportunities.

After submitting a project, you’ll receive a certificate of completion.

Dates

The expected dates for the next iterations of the course are:

Mid 2024 course:

  • Applications close: 5 May 2024
  • Application decisions made by: 12 May 2024
  • Course starts: 24 May 2024
  • Course ends: 17 August 2024

These dates are our current best estimates as to when we will be running the courses, and are subject to change.

We expect to run a version of the course roughly every 3-4 months.

Requirements

  • Availability 5+ hours per week to study biosecurity
  • A reliable internet connection and webcam (built-in is fine) to join video calls
  • English language skills sufficient to constructively engage in live sessions on biosecurity

Optional payment

There is no mandatory payment for this course. If you would like to, you will have the option at the end of the course to pay an amount that you are comfortable with and that you feel reflects the value that the course has brought to you.

BlueDot Impact Ltd, the organisation that runs this course, is a non-profit based in the UK and is entirely philanthropically funded. This course costs us roughly £300 per participant to run, and any payment you make would be used to subsidise places for future participants on our courses.

Running independent versions of the course

Friends, workplace groups, student societies and other local organisations are welcome to run versions of our courses. Provided you follow our guidance, you can use the public curriculum.

Any other questions?

If you’re not sure whether to apply, we recommend that you put in an application. If you have any other questions do contact us!

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Endorsements & testimonials

Natalie Kiilu
Lawyer and Researcher with the Oxford Biosecurity Group
I now have a solid foundation of the biosecurity space and areas I could dig further into. I am currently pursuing two research projects because of the guidance and knowledge I received through this course.
Natalie Kiilu
Lawyer and Researcher with the Oxford Biosecurity Group
Harrison Koos
PhD Student in Health Policy / Health Economics at Stanford University
My goal was to develop a broad understanding of the biosecurity landscape and the various issues/opportunities being discussed in the field. I feel that this course did a great job covering that and more!
Harrison Koos
PhD Student in Health Policy / Health Economics at Stanford University
Nikki Aluquin
Research Assistant at SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute
I was looking for a way to pivot into biosecurity as an early-career professional, this course empowered me to do just that! It gave me a better insight into the field and an opportunity to find the gaps that I can personally work on. Since the course, I’ve been more confident to talk about biosecurity with other people and I feel more prepared to apply for related roles.
Nikki Aluquin
Research Assistant at SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute
Scott Weathers
Legislative Assistant, U.S. House of Representatives
The course had great content, high-quality instruction, and valuable relationship-building.
Scott Weathers
Legislative Assistant, U.S. House of Representatives
Alveena Zehra
Assistant Professor at the Department of Biotechnology, Jinnah University for Women
My primary goal for the course was to engage with the biosecurity community, gaining insights into global initiatives and diverse approaches for pandemic risk mitigation. I surpassed this goal by actively participating in discussions and building a valuable professional network. The exposure to different perspectives broadened my understanding of biosecurity challenges.
Alveena Zehra
Assistant Professor at the Department of Biotechnology, Jinnah University for Women
Sarah Koeller
Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program, Chester County Health Department
This was an invaluable experience that catalyzed my commitment to continue learning and contributing to the biosecurity space.
Sarah Koeller
Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program, Chester County Health Department
Olaoluwa Akinloluwa
Senior Consultant at IQVIA
I was able to significantly strengthen my understanding of the catastrophic risks pandemics pose to the world. I gained a fresh appreciation for the multi-sectoral nature of the planning and response required to prepare for and respond to a pandemic-level event. If I do gain traction this year will be in large parts due to the motivation I got from this short course.
Olaoluwa Akinloluwa
Senior Consultant at IQVIA
Grace Braithwaite
Medical Doctor
I learnt a lot about the biosecurity space - in terms of players, types of roles and technologies. I also started a practical project and became much more interested in biosecurity as a career option.
Grace Braithwaite
Medical Doctor
William Putnam
Senior Software Engineer at Meta
I learned about ways my training in technology could help to minimize biosecurity risks and potential new research areas I could pursue. I learned so much from my cohort mates and their varied perspectives.
William Putnam
Senior Software Engineer at Meta

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