12 June 2021 

Dr Ellen Brooks Pollock is one of four University of Bristol academics to receive an award in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list, which recognises the achievements and service of people across the UK.

Dr Ellen Brooks Pollock OBE, University of Bristol

Dr Brooks Pollock is a Senior Lecturer in Infectious Disease Mathematical Modelling at Bristol Veterinary School and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation in Population Health Sciences. She has been awarded an OBE for her services to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) during the COVID-19 response.

Dr Brooks Pollock has worked in infectious disease modelling for 15 years. She obtained a first-class degree in Mathematics from University College London, and a PhD in Mathematical Epidemiology from the University of Warwick. She gained postdoctoral experience at Harvard University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Cambridge before moving to Bristol in 2015.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been a regular contributor to SPI-M, a subgroup of SAGE that provides modelling evidence to the UK government.

She developed a methodology for condensing multiple policy options into a single figure that was used by the highest levels of government to manage and plan the easing of lockdown, including for the partial re-opening of schools in June 2020, the full re-opening of schools in September 2020 and vaccination rollout.

Her current work to support the UK’s COVID-19 response during the pandemic includes quantifying the role of groups and gatherings on COVID-19 transmission, demonstrating that single-person households could safely form a bubble with other households, the impact of temporarily easing restrictions during the Christmas period, modelling the spread of COVID-19 in universities and measuring the increased mortality associated with the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant.

She is the Bristol co-lead for the JUNIPER (Joint UNIversities Pandemic and Epidemiological Research) consortium and last month she guest edited the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Special Issue on ‘Modelling that shaped the early COVID-19 pandemic response in the UK’.

She leads the University’s Scientific Advisory Group modelling subgroup, which has supported the University’s COVID-19 response. Last year [June 2020], she established CON-QUEST, an online survey of University of Bristol staff and students, which has fed into University of Bristol and national decision-making.

She is passionate about communicating mathematical modelling in non-technical ways and has been on the editorial board of Mathematics Today since 2017.  In 2011, she was jointly awarded the Institute of Mathematics Catherine Richards prize for the article ‘Pigs didn’t fly, but Swine flu‘ about modelling the H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Dr Brooks Pollock said: “I am one of many modellers and scientists supporting the COVID-19 response in the UK and worldwide. I have been studying infectious diseases for 15 years and COVID-19 has tested our knowledge of epidemics and how to control them.

“It’s been a privilege and a unique experience to work with fantastic scientists from all over the UK – mostly without leaving home.  I am delighted to receive this award and plan to continue to disease modelling for many years to come.”

University of Bristol academics Professor Mike Benton, Professor Tim Cook and Professor Jane Memmott also received awards in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Read more on the University of Bristol website: Palaeontologist, infectious disease mathematical modeller, anaesthetist and ecologist receive Queen’s Birthday Honours

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