News 29/07/2020

How one G-Research employee is helping the Royal Society model the spread of COVID-19

Fabian Ying joined G-Research as a Quantitative Researcher after completing his PhD in Applied Mathematics. For his thesis, he modelled customer movement and congestion inside supermarkets and now uses the skills he developed in academia to help create models that will predict movements in financial markets.

But in March, when the Royal Society issued an urgent call for researchers to support modelling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fabian’s thesis experience had a very direct application. He explains:

“When the Royal Society put out a call for volunteers to help their Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP) group, I applied and hoped to be able to contribute in some small way to our national and international understanding of the virus. I was therefore delighted when I was selected as the main researcher for the group working on modelling how COVID-19 might transmit in supermarkets. 

“We aim to identify hotspots where people gather and, using optimisation algorithms, find potential ways to avoid hotspots occurring. For example we are considering how different interventions such as switching store layouts or introducing one-way aisles might help minimise the spread of COVID in these environments.”

With different RAMP groups working on a range of different areas, including aerosols modelling and large-scale human dynamics modelling, the hope is that the different findings can be combined to develop a broader model that is able to examine the overall spread of the virus across communities.

Fabian continues to be a permanent member of staff at G-Research but has been working with RAMP since April. Gabi Bennison, G-Research’s Head of HR, explained that the company was more than happy to release Fabian from his usual day-to-day responsibilities.

“Since the start of the outbreak, the importance of mathematics in modelling the epidemiology of the virus has been very clear. As a business, G-Research is very fortunate to employ some of the brightest mathematical minds in the country and at this time of crisis it is only right that we support scientific efforts to control COVID’s spread. We are incredibly proud of Fabian and delighted to have him representing G-Research.”

For Fabian, the opportunity to use his mathematical talents in a national emergency is one he is very grateful for.

“It is hugely rewarding to be able to contribute to our understanding of how to limit the spread of this terrible virus and I also take great satisfaction from being able to put my PhD work to good use. I’ve also enjoyed fielding the multitude of questions from colleagues about my work – such was the interest that I recently gave a company-wide talk to explain the modelling I was working on.”

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