Success at the Undergraduate Awards

2015-11-11 19.34.46Congratulations to Aleksejs Sazonovs for winning the gold medal in the computer science category at this year’s Undergraduate Awards ceremony on Wednesday.

The Undergraduate Awards is a relatively new scheme that’s now the largest such organisation in the world, getting submissions of undergraduate research work from over 200 universities worldwide.

Aleks’ project, conducted with IDIR members Oscar Gaggiotti and Simon Dobson, studied the impact that the release of transgenic mosquitoes might have on the spread of malaria in West Africa. He used a complex network model based on real world geographical data extracted from Open Street Map and extended to produce a realistic (although synthetic) demography, leading to a multiplex model where the disease spreads between human and mosquito populations.

2015-11-11 19.13.13The study concluded that malarial resistance doesn’t actually reduce the spread of malaria because of the way the new genes mix as the mosquitoes breed. Nonetheless this is an important result, and opens the way to simulations of other diseases. It’s particularly interesting that Aleks was able to study a real disease on a real geographic network, using only publicly-available data sources.

In the gold medal citation, the chairman of the review panel expressed the hope that “the well-deserved recognition of this entry will excite and inspire more undergraduates to pursue computer science and demonstrate to them what powerful tools they can have at their disposal to serve society and humanity”.