You might have seen headlines like this in the news: “Without any social distancing, Covid-19 could have killed 40 million people this year”. There is still so little we know about this new virus, so how did epidemiologists come up with these figures? (Un)surprisingly, it is not by looking into a crystal ball, but with the help of mathematics and a little bit of programming. This project will introduce you to the basics of infectious diseases modelling, using Covid-19 as an example.

What Students will do

In this project, students will independently explore the dynamics of an epidemic. They will identify relevant biological factors that governs Covid-19 transmission and develop an SIR (Susceptible-Infectious-Recovery) model for the spreading of an epidemic in a population. They can then use the model to simulate the spread of Covid-19 and examine the effectiveness of different policies, such as social distancing, in a hypothetical setting.


  • Biology 

Prerequisite Study

  •  Advanced Mathematics (calculus-based course)

Areas of Student Interest 

  • Medical research
  • Public health care
  • Epidemiology
  • Infectious diseases
  • Health policy
  • Translating research into policy
  • Mathematics
  • Computational biology
  • Computing 


Lead Academic: Dr Christopher Angstmann - Senior Lecturer, School of Mathematics and Statistics 

Chris Angstmann

Much of Christopher's research could broadly be placed in the categories of complex dynamical systems and stochastic modelling. Christopher has been involved in both the development of applied mathematics as well as the application of mathematics to real world phenomena. One aspect of his work has focused on using stochastic processes to incorporate fractional derivative in to partial differential equation, and ordinary differential equation, based models. This has lead to Christopher developing models for anomalous diffusion as well as fractional order compartment models. Christopher has applied this work in a number of different areas in both physics and biology, and has an interest in fractional calculus, finance, and pattern formation. 



Masters Student: Phoebe Nguyen 

Phoebe Nguyen

Phoebe Nguyen is a Public Health student in University of New South Wales, with a special interest in Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases. Her current research focuses on COVID-19 epidemiology in Australia and various ways social distancing policies can reduce transmission. When she is tired of reading about viruses, she likes to cycle around her favourite parks and take some sunset photos to add to her collection.