Calling all Deadheads: ASU hosts Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Meeting

Calling all Deadheads: ASU hosts Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Meeting

October 10, 2018

  • ZAMM 2018

    The Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Meeting, hosted by ASU Oct. 18-21, will feature various invited speakers, from rap artists to professors of science.

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October 10, 2018

We see it in movies, TV shows and books, but we rarely see it in science – the zombie apocalypse may be nearer than we think, and an ASU-hosted event intends to address that.

On Oct. 18-21, ASU will host the Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Meeting, an interdisciplinary gathering blending the arts and sciences to address the provocative, ever-engaging topic of zombies. According to the website, a zombie is defined as “an entity that is fully or partially under control of another entity,” a relationship that can have profound consequences.

ZAMM provides a meeting ground for individuals from all fields to come together and discuss the zombification process and how it many contribute to “apocalyptic” conditions, where chaos reigns. Through this interdisciplinary engagement, these professionals can agree on measures to prevent such events.

The gathering brings together an eclectic group, including life sciences researchers like Amy Boddy, who studies zombies in the womb in a phenomenon known as fetal microchimerism; authors like Max Brooks, the author of “Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z,”; filmmakers like Mark Mannucci, an Emmy Award-winning director and producer; and artists like Baba Brinkman, a playwright and rapper who will provide “The Rap Guide to Consciousness (and Zombies).”

Athena Aktipis, assistant professor for the Department of Psychology and associate faculty at the Biodesign Center for Biocomputing, Security and Society, is the meeting’s primary organizer. She will also be leading and participating in various panels during the event – Biodesign investigators Carlo Maley, Joseph Blattman and Aktipis will hold a panel addressing the cellular agents of zombification.

"We use the zombie apocalypse as a lens through which we can engage about potentially frightening aspects of our present and future without fear and anxiety, but instead with imagination and creativity," said Aktipis. "The goal of ZAMM is to reduce the global burden of zombification and contribute to apocalypse prevention and preparedness through interdisciplinary engagement."

Various ASU professors from different fields, ranging from ethics to life sciences, will also participate in panels at this event. For example, Esma Gel, associate professor of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, will host a panel covering zombie apocalypse risk management strategies.

The meeting will also feature interactive art exhibits and workshops, including “Make me a Monster,” led by ASU graduate student Mario Munguia Jr, and “The Life Cycle of Toxoplasma Gondii” by artist Rachel Mayeri. Her exhibit will feature 29 screens tracking the life cycle of the toxoplasma gondii parasite and its ability to cause mice to lose their instinctive aversion to cat urine and its ability to influence entrepreneurial behavior in humans. Also featured at the meeting, forensic psychiatrists will lead a mock trial for a “cured” zombie in a hypothetical post-apocalyptic setting.

"The Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Alliance focuses on understanding and treating diseases that arise from extreme physical, and social conditions," said Aktipis."This includes the study of the genetic and evolutionary basis for our strengths and vulnerabilities in extreme environments."

The meeting will be held primarily at the ASU Memorial Union on the Tempe campus, with some events at the Student Pavilion. Individuals can pay and register for the event until Oct. 11, but some events are open to the public and free of charge, including talks or performances by Max Brooks, Baba Brinkman and Kelly Weinersmith, an adjunct assistant professor at Rice University studying host-parasite interactions.

There may be no gruesome barrage of zombies at this convention, but there are plenty of opportunities to learn. In the case of a zombie apocalypse, you may just find yourself prepared to face it. 


Written by: Gabrielle Hirneise