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University Alum at Heart of Nationally-Recognized COVID Website

University Alum at Heart of Nationally-Recognized COVID Website  

An interactive website built by former University of Idaho College of Science graduate student Ensheng Dong has garnered a national reputation as the go-to place for the latest coronavirus statistics. 

Ensheng, who earned a Master’s of Science in geography and statistics at U of I, is a key researcher involved with the creation and upkeep of the widely-used COVID-19 dashboard.
 
Ensheng developed the site after a casual conversation with an engineering professor at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering where he is pursuing a doctorate. 
 
“I built it from scratch with the technique and knowledge I acquired at the University of Idaho,” Ensheng said.

When the pandemic gained momentum and spread across the globe early this year, a group of Johns Hopkins scientists including Ensheng began tracking statistics. Ensheng volunteered to build a COVID-19 tracker and within 12 hours had created the live dashboard based on real time data from China CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). 
 
The reliable and easy-to-use COVID-19 tracker updates confirmed cases and deaths by country, region and state within the U.S. It is used by researchers, the media and general public who want to stay up-to-date on the latest information. It hearkens back to Ensheng’s early interest in combining his engineering and math skills with a keen interest in health.
 
At U of I, Ensheng learned data visualization with Felix Liao, and data processing techniques with Stephen Lee.
 
In addition, he developed an interest in epidemiological and biostatistical methods from Assistant Professor Michelle Wiest, whose public health work includes deciphering data associated with epidemics.
 
“I also participated in Dr. Michelle Wiest’s project on public health issues like Ebola,” Ensheng said.
 
By applying biostatistical methods to untangle massive amounts of information in areas such as biology and medicine, scientists can make valid inferences used to solve public health issues, he said.
 
Since leaving Idaho for Johns Hopkins University, Ensheng has been named a Louis M. Brown Fellow and a Dean’s Leadership Fellow by the Whiting School of Engineering.

Article by Ralph Bartholdt, University Communications and Marketing
Published November 2020

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