Skip to main content

Seminar on Understanding endogenous behaviour during epidemics using Nash Neural Networks


On 30 March 2023, Professor Matthew S. Turner gave a talk on Understanding endogenous behaviour during epidemics using Nash Neural Networks. The seminar focused on understanding how people and governments behave during an epidemic, such as COVID-19, using a simple model of disease spread. Prof Turner introduced a unique perspective that blends control theory (which is about how to optimally influence systems) at two different scales, individual and government. Individuals try to balance costs, such as social distancing, with benefits, such as a lower risk of disease. Governments, on the other hand, can use taxes or incentives to encourage individuals to behave in ways that best meet the government's goals. By introducing the "Nash neural network", the researchers can infer the hidden goals from observed behaviour in a game scenario where everyone is trying to optimise their own outcome. The models can be applied to analyse the best behaviour during epidemics, where people can choose to socially distance themselves based on the state of the epidemic and the costs associated with infection. There were then group exchanges and discussions with colleagues and students from the Department of Physics on topics in statistical biophysics at the molecular (Dr. Qianyuan Tang and Dr. Xiangze Zeng), cellular (Prof. Jue Shi), whole brain (Prof. Changsong Zhou) and community levels (Prof. Leihan Tang).
Prof Matthew S. Turner
Department of Physics, University of Warwick, England
PhD in theoretical soft condensed matter physics from Cambridge University, supervised by Mike Cates (now Lucasian professor) working on the dynamics of polymers that can exchange mass; president of Trinity College BA Society. Then I moved to a postdoc with Jean-Francois Joanny in Strasbourg France where I developed models of polymeric liquid crystals. In 1991 I was elected a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge. I then held a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in Cambridge which I took to the University of California at Santa Barbara to work in the KITP on theory of membranes. I was then appointed to the faculty at Warwick University before taking up the W M Keck fellowship in the Centre for Studies in Physics and Biology at Rockefeller University from 1998-2001. I learned much about Biology at Rockefeller and worked on protein-DNA interactions. In recent years I have enjoyed a Joliot-Curie visiting fellowship at ESPCI, Paris and held the Mayant-Rothschild visiting professorship at Institut Curie, Paris. In 2010 I won an EPSRC "Leadership Fellowship". I’ve spent much of the last 3 years in Japan on sabbaticals funded by fellowships from the JSPS and the Leverhulme trust. Recently, I've been having a lot of fun working on some completely new problems in both collective motion and the interface between mathematical epidemiology and economics.
More photos: