Dr. Rabajante: Modelling the Pandemic

Dr. Jomar F. Rabajante is a familiar face in mainstream and social media today as he is one of the known experts in the country modelling the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of his reputation as a good modeler, his and the UPLB Biomathematics Research team studies are considered by policy makers in crafting national policies to battle COVID-19,  making him a preference among newscasters and influencers as he shares his insights on how to “flatten the curve.” He is part of the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team.

Dr. Rabajante is the youngest Professor at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics, College of Arts and Sciences, UPLB and is currently the Chair of the Diploma in Mathematics Teaching program at the Faculty of Education of UP Open University. He obtained his Doctor of Science in Mathematical and Systems Engineering (major in Environment and Energy Systems) degree from Shizuoka University, Japan, Master of Science in Applied Mathematics (major in Mathematics in Life and Physical Sciences) from the University of the Philippines Diliman, and B.Sc. in Applied Mathematics from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He had received numerous distinctions for his high-impact research outputs both locally and abroad. Among these achievements are the title UP Scientist I (2017), and Young Scientists Award by the National Academy of Science and Technology (2016). He was a Visiting Professor/Scientist/Researcher at the Carleton University and Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences in Canada, and at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany. He is also a Junior Associate at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Italy.

At a very young age, he has already initiated several programs and innovative activities to promote and advance the field of applied mathematics in the country. In 2010, he was one of the pioneer members of the UPLB Biomathematics Initiative. Composed of young scientists like him, what started as a small group is now one of the leading and active research teams in UPLB, now known as the UPLB Biomathematics Research Cluster. He linked colleagues from different departments and institutes and advocated for collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to solving complex problems in biology and related fields. Through his leadership, the cluster was awarded as the 2019 CAS Outstanding Research Team, which inspired and motivated young scientists to do interdisciplinary research more. His initiatives are not just confined within UPLB but also to aspiring scientists in the general public. He also developed the Applied Mathematics module for “nuLab”, the new mobile science learning facility of the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI).

As of this writing, Dr. Rabajante and the UPLB Biomathematics Research Cluster have modelled the COVID-19 pandemic to understand and possibly predict its course, in the Philippine context. Some of their works are the following:

(1) “Insights from early mathematical model of 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease (COVID-19) dynamics” where Dr. Rabajante formulated a Susceptible-Exposed-Infected (SEI) compartment model to propose preventive anti-epidemic measures during large events (https://arxiv.org/abs/2002.05296; https://sites.google.com/view/jfrcovid19ph/?fbclid=IwAR0jZ0pEf_JWhXq56-Y3LiJjKohXyFjk4C-jb0BK04hfBbGL7Qk127N2p6E);

(2) “A COVID-19 Infection Risk Model for Frontline Health Care Workers”, where Dr. Rabajante and Mr. Louie Florendo Dy formulated a theoretical model to calculate the risk of being infected in health care facilities (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.27.20045336v1);

(3) “A mathematical model of COVID-19 transmission between frontliners and the general public”, where Dr. Rabajante et.al. formulated a Susceptible-Exposed-Infected-Recovered (SEIR) compartment model to determine the transmission dynamics of COVID-19 between the frontliners and the general public (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.27.20045195v1);

(4) “Initial COVID-a9 Philippines Provincial Estimates and Projections”, where the authors projected the number of infected individuals and fatalities, as well as the number of hospital beds and intensive care units needed per region (https://sites.google.com/up.edu.ph/initialcovid19phestimates);

(5) “Optimal Allocation of COVID-19 Test Kits Among Accredited Testing Centers in the Philippines”, where Dr. Rabajante et.al. determine the optimal percentage allocation of COVID-19 test kits among accredited testing centers in the Philippines that gives an equitable chance to all infected individuals to be tested (https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.14.20065201);

(6) “Agent-Based Model of COVID-19 Infections inside a Train Wagon using NetLogo”, where Buhat et al. determine the effects of factors such as crowd density, the protection level of individuals against infection, and initial number of infected individuals under the presence or absence of social distancing protocol, and interaction among individuals (infected or not) in a train wagon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjArjYpTK_k&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2YC5Uy65yldPtVIX3s1oUNNKTzjgWYE_WLn4GsI5JVBYjfUPjq_zNrCQY);

(7) “Modeling the Transmission of Respiratory Infectious Diseases in Mass Transportation Systems” , where the authors determine the optimal strategies to minimize infections while maintaining transportation services during pandemics or disease outbreaks. (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.09.20126334v1); and

(8) “Job Risk Profiling: Philippines” where the authors presented the risk profiles of almost 1000 jobs and their corresponding industrial sectors (https://datastudio.google.com/s/ohriLh8GCvc).

Dr. Rabajante’s long list of high-quality research outputs only proves his passion and dedication to promote mathematics as an important tool in solving practical and pressing problems in the community, the Philippines, and the world. He is committed to continue his initiatives and implement more innovative plans in the future. It is his dream for Biomathematics to be known as an indispensable tool in the Philippines in the areas of agriculture, epidemiology, molecular biology, and environmental science. Without any doubt, Mathematics, in particular, mathematical modeling, biomathematics and data science are playing major roles in better understanding the world we live in.

Dr. Rabajante is a public servant, promoting mathematics and science to various audiences. He is a strong supporter of “Life-driven Mathematics”, a purpose-driven way of teaching and communicating mathematics. He is the epitome of an outstanding young scientist – well-published, dynamic, self-motivated, hardworking, creative, a visionary, an influencer and a mathematician/scientist or the people.

For more information, you may check https://uplb.edu.ph/all-news/doing-the-math-in-a-pandemic/

(EC Jose and DS Lutero)