Prof. Madhur Anand
Dr. Madhur Anand

Dr. Madhur Anand, a professor in School of Environmental Sciences  and director of U of G’s Guelph Institute for Environmental Research, was featured in the New York Times Dec. 20.

Anand is among the authors of a new study currently under peer review that looks at vaccination prioritization; specifically, who should get vaccinated first to save the most lives.

Like many scientists, Anand has redirected her research to focus on COVID-19. The holder of the Canada Research Chair in Global Ecological Change and the University Research Chair in Sustainability Sciences, she applied knowledge and tools from theoretical ecology and climate change-human behaviour modelling for the study. Led by doctoral student Peter Jentsch, the study also involved Chris Bauch, research chair in the University of Waterloo’s Department of Applied Mathematics.

The researchers applied game theory, a mathematical way of modeling how people make strategic decisions within a group. While individuals have choices, the outcomes of those choices depend on the choices made by others. With COVID-19, the researchers said it is “prisoner’s dilemma game” — players weigh cooperation against betrayal, often producing a less than optimal outcome for the common good. With vaccinations, this involves weighing perceived benefits against concerns about safety and side effects.

Previously, Anand has been involved in other COVID-19 studies that utilized mathematical modelling, including analyzing strategies for reopening schools, businesses and workplaces and the role of large class sizes in the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

She is also a poet and the author of a highly acclaimed memoir This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart, which tells stories about her family’s immigration after the partition of Pakistan from India.