Statistical physics has a long history of developing simple models to describe complex phenomena in population dynamics. A classic example is the contact process, which describes a spatial population on a lattice which carries an "infection" which can only be transmitted from an infected lattice site to a neighbouring uninfected one. Usually, it is assumed that the host population itself is static, filling the whole lattice, and the dynamics of the infection is what is studied. Together with my student Steven Court and my colleague Richard Blythe, we developed an extended version of this model: the "stacked contact process". In this model, the population itself is described by a contact process (occupied lattice sites are born and die), and there is also an infection (or "parasite") that undegoes a second contact process, on the dynamic population of occupied sites. We also extended this model to multilevel contact processes, and found an interesting analogy to another field of statistical physics, which describes interface growth.
In a different, but related project, I have also developed statistical physics models for the spread of horizontally transmitted traits (eg an infection) in an expanding population. In this work, together with Juan Venegas Ortiz and Martin Evans, we studied the system of coupled Fisher wave equations that describe an expanding population carrying such a trait. Intriguingly, the speed at which the trait spreads in the population turns out to be described by a different set of rules to those that usually apply to Fisher waves - suggesting that the study of coupled Fisher wave problems may have new insights to reveal in future work.
Here is a great 3 minute video of our PhD student Freya Bull describing her research modelling bacterial infection of a urinary catheter!
We are searching for a part-time computer systems administrator for our group in Jena. Please contact us if you are interested!
Welcome to Ariane Zander who has joined us as a technician in our lab!