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Dr Sheetal Silal: The statistician

Updated: Apr 23, 2019

Dr Sheetal Silal @sheetalsilal, a senior lecturer in the Department of Statistical Sciences at the University of Cape Town (UCT) , is using mathematical modelling in trying to fight the spread of malaria. She predicts and plots out the behaviour and spread of infectious diseases with the aim of providing policymakers with this information, so that they can be proactive about which populations to target, who to vaccinate, when to vaccinate and institute measures to pre-empt the situation, and/or react effectively. This modelling brings together a few disciplines - it requires a good understanding of biology, (in order to explain how the disease behaves in your body), the ability to work with large amounts of data statistically (from previous epidemics and the population of interest), mathematics is required to create equations from all this information and finally, computer science is used to write a program that brings it all together to create a model.

Sheetal has been working on malaria modelling for the last decade and built one of the first mathematical models for malaria in South Africa. She is also integrally involved in the worldwide initiative to rid the world of malaria. Her contribution in this field has been recognised through numerous awards including an honourary visiting research fellowship at Oxford University @oxford_uni. One of Sheetal’s ongoing goals is to train more scientists to model diseases in this way. When Sheetal is not fighting malaria she enjoys the company of her 5 cats, 4 dogs and 2 ducks...

Featured artist: Janine du Plessis @janine_duplessis