Calendar of Events

The Science and Politics of Pandemics

The Science and Politics of Pandemics

Amid the present COVID-19 pandemic, it is useful and important to explore how pandemics provide an opportunity to address a variety of compelling scientific and political questions. This special two-week forum, led jointly by Ben Peterson Professor of Chemistry Maria Dean and Professor of Political Science Lynda Barrow, will examine pandemics past and present from the vantage points of a biochemist and a political scientist. From the 14th-century plague in Europe to the Ebola outbreaks of the early 21st century to the current COVID-19 moment,epidemics and pandemics offer a unique opportunity to consider a wide variety of significant scientific and political issues that leaders, countries and the international community face during moments of crisis.In the first week’s session, the presenters will define what constitutes a pandemic, which organisms and conditions make pandemics possible and why pandemics are a political as well as a scientific issue. The second session will discuss specific pandemics, examining in each case the science of the spread and containment as well as the political and public health responses.

Thursday Forum will resume in-person lectures during the 2021-2022 season.* In-person forum sessions are held in Kesler Lecture Hall of Hickok Hall on the Coe campus. Each session begins with registration from 8:45-9:15 AM, followed by the class until 11:30 AM. The sessions blend lecture, media and discussion. Masks are currently required for all Thursday Forum presenters and attendees. In the event of inclement weather, consult local media outlets to find out if the day’s forum will take place.

Admission to individual lectures is $10 per week. Payment can be made in person on Thursday mornings by cash or personal check. Credit card payments can be processed by registering here in advance. For more information about registering in advance, paying by credit card or ordering gift certificates, call 319.399.8523 or visit

* Thursday Forum will follow Coe's Safe Campus Initiative guidelines for in-person gatherings. Thursday Forum programs may pivot to an online format should campus or community health conditions require. Any such changes would be announced on the Thursday Forum website.