Caitlin Ward

Post-Graduate Stories

Caitlin Ward on Behavioural Change in Infectious Disease Systems

Caitlin’s project explores the dynamics of how a disease spreads through populations. It aims to improve the forecasting and modeling of infectious disease transmission.

Program: CANSSI Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship

Project Focus Area

As seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, population behaviours can have a large impact on the transmission of a disease at any given point in time. This includes reactions to the current state of disease prevalence and how it is being portrayed in the media.

Caitlin aims to produce models that better mimic the dynamics of how a disease spreads through a population, to improve forecasting and to better understand the drivers of disease transmission. 

The fellowship provides me with excellent opportunities to teach and engage in professional development activities to help advance my career. I’m very excited to work with experts in my field on exciting research and to experience life in Canada.

Caitlin Ward (top left), Alexandra M. Schmidt (top right), Rob Deardon (bottom).

Getting to Know Caitlin

Caitlin received her Bachelor of Science in statistics from Iowa State University before studying biostatistics at the University of Iowa. There she received her master’s degree and will complete her PhD this spring. Her research has focused on developing methods for hierarchical Bayesian models, with an emphasis on infectious disease modeling.

As a recipient of the CANSSI Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship, Caitlin will conduct this project under the supervision of Rob Deardon from the University of Calgary and Alexandra M. Schmidt from McGill University.

I chose to do the CANSSI Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowships project with Dr. Deardon and Dr. Schmidt because the topic is closely aligned with my current research.

About the Supervisors

Rob Deardon

Rob is a Professor of Biostatistics, with a joint position in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Calgary.

Much of his recent work has been in the area of infectious disease modelling and surveillance, and Bayesian and computational statistics. Rob is also interested in experimental design, spatio-temporal modelling, statistical learning, and statistical modelling in general.

Alexandra M. Schmidt

Alexandra is a Professor of Biostatistics and the University Chair in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University. She is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association and was awarded the 2017 Distinguished Achievement Medal of the American Statistical Association’s Section on Statistics and the Environment.

As a Bayesian statistician, Alexandra works on the development of flexible spatial and spatio-temporal models. Her focus is on environmental, ecological, and infectious disease problems.


Behavioural Change in Infectious Disease Systems is a CANSSI Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship project. This two-year program includes a substantial research project, applied interdisciplinary and teaching experience.

CANSSI Postdoctoral Fellowships are supported by a competitive salary. They provide opportunities for professional development and prepare postdoctoral fellows for success in a variety of careers.