Tamara Awerbuch-Friedlander

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Tamara Eugenia Awerbuch-Friedlander
Tamara Eugenia Awerbuch-Friedlander
Born Buenos Aires, Uruguay
Occupation Biomathematician, Public health scientist
Nationality Israeli
Ethnicity Jewish
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1979
Period 20th and 21st centuries
Genre Biostatistics, statistics, public health, biomathematics, emergent diseases, Epidemiology, HIV/AIDS
Subject Biostatistics, statistics, public health, biomathematics, disease vectors, entomology
Literary movement Women's health, feminism, university women
Relatives Parents: Louis and Stella (née Skolnick) Epstein

Tamara Eugenia Awerbuch-Friedlander, PhD, is a biomathematician and public health scientist at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. Her primary research and publications focus on biosocial interactions that cause or contribute to disease. She also is believed to be the first female Harvard Faculty member to file a lawsuit against Harvard University for sex discrimination.[1][2][3] Currently, she is an instructor in the Department of Global Health and Population of the Harvard School of Public Health. Since the beginning of this century, she has organized and carried out research on conditions that lead to the emergence, maintenance, and spread of epidemics. Her research encompasses sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV/AIDS, as well as vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and Lyme disease. Dr. Awerbuch-Friedlander recently researched the spread and control of rabies based on an eco-historical analysis. Her work is interdisciplinary, and her publications are co-authored with members of different departments of the HSPH.

Conditions contributing to the emergence of epidemics are complex in nature, involving biological, ecological, behavioral, environmental, and socioeconomic factors. Most of her research mathematically models these factors as systems that lend themselves to qualitative and quantitative analysis. These models can be used to explore the effect of each factor in the presence of the others as well as new interventions. Many of these models are based on data collected in the field, whether they concern zoonotic diseases such as the population dynamics of the tick that transmits Lyme disease in the Northeastern part of the United States, or sexually transmitted diseases, such as the relative probabilities of HIV1 and HIV2 infection in a cohort of prostitutes in Senegal.

Some of her analytical mathematical models led to fundamental epidemiological discoveries, for example, that oscillations are an intrinsic property of tick dynamics. This means that a decrease in tick abundance in one year does not necessary imply that the same will happen in the next. She presented her work in many international conferences and at the Isaac Newton Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge, England, where she was invited to participate in the Program on Models of Epidemics.

Early life[edit]

Tamara Awerbuch was born in Uruguay, lived until the age of 12 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, then moved to Israel with her parents, where her grandparents and parents had lived after they had escaped Nazi Germany just before the Holocaust began. She studied and completed three degrees at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She studied chemistry and minored in biochemistry and completed the BSc in Chemistry in 1965. In 1967, she completed both the Master of Science (MSc) in Physiology and the Master of Education (MEd) degree from Hebrew University. She is certified to teach all grades, K–12, in Israel.

She also served in the Israeli army.

In October 1973, while visiting friends in America, she was offered employment at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to study detoxified carcinogens in tissue cultures, then a recently developed technique. In Spring 1974, she began to study mathematics and statistics there because, as an MIT employee, she could take one course free each semester, which she continued doing for three semesters. During this period, she worked in the lab studying carcinogenicity in tissue cultures, studied one course each semester, and lived very frugally, sharing a house with MIT junior Faculty and graduate students. Then, in Summer 1975, she matriculated as a full-time MIT student, where she completed her doctorate in Nutrition and Food Science in 1979. She became a US citizen and has resided in the United States since that time. She enjoys her interesting life as an international research academic and travels often to South America and Israel.



Dr. Awerbuch-Friedlander is a founding member of the New and Resurgent Disease Group.[4][5] Within this context, she was involved in organizing a conference in Woods' Hole on the emergence and resurgence of diseases, where she led the workshop on Mathematical Modeling. In addition, she established international collaborations, such as with Israeli scientists on emerging infectious diseases in the Middle East, with Cuban scientists on infectious diseases of plants and the development of general methodologies, and with Brazilian scientists on the development of concepts to guide effective surveillance.

Currently, Dr. Awerbuch-Friedlander is a co-investigator in a project, "Why New and Resurgent Diseases Caught Public Health by Surprise and a Strategy to Prevent This" (supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation).

At Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Awerbuch-Friedlander co-chairs the committee on Bio- and Public Health Mathematics. Some of her research papers were the result of collaboration with students through the course Mathematical Models in Biology, which has large portions dedicated to infectious diseases. She is indeed interested in Public Health education and has developed for adolescents educational software based on models for determining risk or probability that an individual with certain risky sexual behaviors actually would become infected with HIV. These models help risk-prone youth, parents, educators, community health leaders, and public health researchers explore how changes in sexual behavior impact their probability of contracting HIV.

The Truth is the Whole

She also chairs a committee to plan the 85th birthday celebration of Dr. Richard Levins, founder of the Human Ecology program in the Global Health and Population Department of the Harvard School of Public Health, a two-day workshop with the Hegelian theme "The Truth is the Whole" to be held at the Harvard School of Public Health in mid-2015 and to focus on the manifold contributions in mathematical biology from Dr. Levins and his colleagues, students, and disciples. This involves development and updating of the English language Wikipedia article on Richard Levins and translation of that article into French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and perhaps into other languages into which the Levins writings have been published over the years.

Sex-discrimination suit against Harvard[edit]

Dr. Awerbuch-Friedlander is believed to be the first female Harvard Faculty member to file a lawsuit against Harvard University for sex discrimination.[6][7][8] The suit was "filed with the Middlesex County Superior Court in June 1997."[9] Dr. Awerbuch-Friedlander sought "nearly $1 million in lost wages and benefits, as well as a promotion at the HSPH"[10] and argued "that Fineberg refused to promote her to a tenure-track position because she is a woman, despite the positive recommendation of the HSPH's selection committee of appointment and re-appointment (SCARP)."[11] Intermittently from 1998 through 2007, the gender discrimination case was covered by the Harvard Crimson (campus media), The Boston Globe (local media), and Science magazine (professional and scientific print media). Science documented the case developments of the sex-discrimination case in its "News of the Week: Women in Science" section.[12] and in Science's SCIENCESCOPE two months later.[13] Her sex discrimination lawsuit was based upon Harvard's denial of tenure to her, despite her significant accomplishments in her fields of expertise, biomathematics, epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health. The University argued that no tenure track positions were open in her new department, after she had been reassigned from one department to another.


  • Awerbuch T.E., Lustman L., and Piret J.M. A numerical method to determine minimal inhibitory concentrations (MIC's) of antibiotics directly from disc-diffusion susceptibility tests, Journal of Microbiological Methods, 9:1–7, 1989.
  • Sandberg, S. and Awerbuch, T.E. Mathematical formulation and studies of the risk parameters involved in HIV transmission. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 51: 467–474, 1989.
  • Kanamori, A. and Awerbuch-Friedlander T.E., The Complete 0¦. Zeitschrift ¦ur Mathematische Logikund Grundlagen der Mathematik 36: 133–141, 1990.
  • Kalish, L.A., Awerbuch, T.E., Bailar, J.C., Bailey, J., Harris, C., Malcolm, A.R., Prager, J.C., Design and classification issues in assessing the risk of complex mixtures. Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials Report, 11: 406–415, 1991.
  • Romieu, I., Sandberg, S., Mohar, A., Awerbuch, T.E., Modeling the AIDS Epidemic in Mexico City. Human Biology, 63: 683–695, 1991.
  • Shtarkshall, R.A. and Awerbuch, T.E., It takes two to tango but one to infect: on the underestimation of the calculated risk for infection, stemming from non-disclosure of either previous risk behavior of seropositivity. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 17: 121–127, 1992.
  • Sandberg, S., Awerbuch, T.E. and Spielman, A., A comprehensive multiple matrix model representing the life cycle of the tick that transmits the agent of Lyme disease Journal of Theoretical Biology, 157: 203–220, 1992.
  • Donnelly C., Leisenring W., Sandberg S., Kanki P., and Awerbuch T. Comparison of transmission rates of HIV-1 and HIV-2 in a cohort of prostitutes in Senegal, Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, 55:731–743, 1993.
  • Awerbuch T.E. Evolution of mathematical models of epidemics. In: Wilson, Levins, and Spielman (eds).Disease in Evolution. New York Academy of Sciences, New York 1994, 225–231.
  • Rothberg M., Sandberg S., and Awerbuch T.E. Educational software for simulating risk of HIV infection.Journal of Science Education and Technology, 3: 64–70, 1994.
  • Awerbuch, T.E. and Spielman, A. Host density and tick dynamics: the case of the vector of Lyme disease. In: Perry and Hansen (eds.) Modeling Vector and Other Parasitic Diseases. Nairobi Kenya: ILRAD 1994, 51–65.
  • Levins, R., Awerbuch, T.E., Brinkman, U.Eckardt, I., Epstein, P., Makhaoul, N., Possas, C.A., Puccia, C., Spielman, A., and Wilson, M., Preparing for new diseases. American Scientist, 82: 52–60, 1994.
  • Awerbuch, T.E. and Spielman, A., Role of host density in the ecology of Lyme disease. Axford, J.S., and Reese, D.H. (eds.)Lyme Borreliosis. London: Plenum Press, 1994, 139–146.
  • Awerbuch T.E., and Sandberg S. Trends and oscillations in tick population dynamics. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 175: 511–516, 1995.
  • Sandberg, S., Awerbuch, T.E., and Gonin, R., Simplicity vs. complexity in deterministic models: an application to AIDS data. Journal of Biological Systems, 4: 61–81, 1996.
  • Awerbuch, T.E., Brinkman, U.,Eckardt, I., Epstein, P., Ford, T., Levins, R., Makhaoul, N., Possas, C.A., Puccia, C., Spielman, A., and Wilson, M., Globalization, development, and the spread of disease. In: Goldsmith and Mander (eds.) The Case Against the Global Economy, Sierra Club Books, 1996, 160–170.
  • Kiszewski, A., Awerbuch, T.E., Sandberg, S., and Spielman, A.,A cellular automata model for exploring the relation between sexual behavior and fertility of ticks. The Journal of Biological Systems, 5: 203–213, 1997.
  • Awerbuch T., Bader K., Greenblatt C. An eco-historical analysis of zoonotic disease spread in Israel and the surrounding countries. Proceedings of the Oslo meeting on: The Middle East in a Globalized World. 1998.
  • Bader, K., Awerbuch, T.E., Greenblatt, C., Reemergence of rabies in Israel and the West Bank: the role of the fox. Infectious Disease Review, 20–29, 1999.
  • Awerbuch T, Kiszewski A., and Levins, R., Surprise, Nonlinearity and Complex Behavior. In– Health Impacts of Global Environmental Change: Concepts and Methods; Martens and Mcmichael (eds), 96–102, 2002
  • Karpati A., Galea S., Awerbuch T., and Levins, R. Variability and vulnerability at the ecological level: Implications for understanding the social determinants of health American Journal of Public Health, 92:1768–1772, 2002.
  • Awerbuch, T.E., Gonzalez, C., Hernandez, D., Sibat, R., Tapia, J.L., Levins, R.,and Sandberg S., The natural control of the scale insect Lepidosaphes gloverii on Cuban citrus. Inter American Citrus Network newsletter No21/22, July 2004.
  • Awerbuch-Friedlander T., Levins, R., and Predescu M., The Role of Seasonality in the Dynamics of Deer Tick Populations. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology; 67(3):467–486. 2005 (May).
  • Awerbuch-Friedlander T., Disease dynamics across political borders: The Case Of Rabies in Israel and the Surrounding Countries. Dynamis. Acta Hist. Med. Sci. Hist. Illus. 25, 451–486., 2005.
  • Predescu M., Levins, R., and Awerbuch-Friedlander T.E., Analysis of non-linear System of Difference Equations Linking Mosquito Breeding Sites and Community Intervention, Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems, SerB. 6(3)605–622, 2006.
  • Awerbuch-Friedlander T, and Levins, R. Mathematical Models for Health Policy. in Mathematical Models, [Eds. Jerzy A. Filar, and Jacek B. Krawczyk], in Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), Developed under the Auspices of the UNESCO, Eolss Publishers, Oxford, UK, [http://www.eolss.net], 2006
  • Predescu M, Sirbu R., Levins, R., and Awerbuch-Friedlander T., On the Dynamics of a Deterministic and Stochastic Model for Mosquito Control. Applied Mathematics Letters, (20), 919–925, 2007
  • Kumarapeli V., Awerbuch-Friedlander T., Human rabies focusing on dog ecology: A challenge to public health in Sri Lanka. Acta Trop. 112(1):33–7, 2009 (October).
  • Awerbuch-Friedlander T.E., Levins, R., The Aging Heart and the Loss of Complexity—a Difference Equation Model. Preliminary report. American Mathematical Society, (1056-39-2059), presented at AMS Convention, San Francisco, California, 13 January 2010.[14]


  1. ^ Harvard Catalyst Profile for Tamara Eugenia Awerbuch-Friedlander, PhD
  2. ^ AAUP 'Issues' page on Women in the Academic Profession, accessed 05/02/2013.
  3. ^ The American Association of University Women, Tenure Denied: Cases of Sex Discrimination in Academia. 2004.
  4. ^ Awerbuch-Friedlander, T., Levins, R., Mathematical Models of Public Health Policy, Mathematical Models, Volume III, EOLSS (Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems), Note: in Biographical Sketches, Accessed online 4/2/2014
  5. ^ Note 20 In "Health Impacts of Climate Change", Medical Journal of Australia, vol.163, 1995, pp. 570–574. By: Erwin Jackson, Climate Impacts Specialist, Greenpeace International, Accessed online 4/2/2014
  6. ^ Awerbuch-Friedlander v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, 449 Mass. 1105 (2007), Lawsuit filed in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, 2001
  7. ^ AAUP 'Issues' page on Women in the Academic Profession, accessed 05/07/2013.
  8. ^ The American Association of University Women, Tenure Denied: Cases of Sex Discrimination in Academia. 2004.
  9. ^ Resnick, S. A., SPH Lecturer Sues University For Gender Bias: Harvard denies allegations, says system fair to all, Harvard Crimson, June 3, 1998
  10. ^ McPherson, F.R., Fineberg Testifies in Discrimination Case, Harvard Crimson, March 14, 2001, Accessed online 04/02/2014
  11. ^ McPherson, F.R., Fineberg Testifies in Discrimination Case, Harvard Crimson, March 14, 2001, Accessed online 04/02/2014
  12. ^ Lawler, A., Court to Hear Charges by Harvard Researcher, Science 23 February 2001: Vol. 291 no. 5508 p. 1466, DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5508.1466a
  13. ^ Lawler, A., Appealing Case, SCIENCESCOPE, Science 27 April 2001: 619
  14. ^ Awerbuch-Friedlander T.E., Levins R., The Aging Heart and the Loss of Complexity—a Difference Equation Model. Preliminary report. American Mathematical Society, (1056-39-2059), presented at AMS Convention, San Francisco, California, January 13, 2010.

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