Professor Julia Gog explains the mathematics behind pandemic strategies 

Julia Gog

Professor Julia Gog gave a compelling talk on the mathematics which informed pandemic response strategies, in the Gillian Vaisey Memorial Lecture last week. 

The talk illuminated the complex modelling which underpinned her scientific advisory work for the UK government during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Julia is Professor of Mathematical Biology at the University of Cambridge and the David N. Moore Fellow in Mathematics at Queens’ College, Cambridge. 

As she said: “As we look back on recent years, there are deep-running and unresolved disagreements on what we should have done in response to COVID-19. Much of the discussion centres on how we should balance different forms of harm, either from the virus or from our interventions. But what really were our options, and how can we determine what is ‘best’? 

“We face some complex and difficult issues here. Mathematics does not answer these questions for us, but it can provide useful ways to frame the problem and to understand things like why the optimal strategy for an individual and a population are different. Addressing these ideas now will put us in a better position to make decisions when we face future epidemic threats.”  

In 2020, Julia was awarded the Royal Society’s Rosalind Franklin Award, and an OBE for services to academia and the Covid-19 response. In December last year, Julia joined Jonathan Van Tam to present a Royal Institution Christmas lecture, the world’s leading science lectures for young people.