Passion drives last year’s winner of Gunnar Köhlin’s Award

EfD’s Annual Meeting is approaching and the award jury is busy evaluating all the qualified nominees for Gunnar Köhlin’s Best Master Thesis Award. In the meantime, let’s meet last year’s winner, Sebastian Bernal Garcia!

Sebastian Bernal Garcia has a somewhat unusual background for a winner of that award. He started his undergraduate studies at Universidad Nacional de Colombia in management and engineering. By the end of his undergraduate studies he took a course in system dynamics, a computer assisted methodology to study complex systems and problems. He got completely hooked.

Got involved and passionate

“That course was a life-changer for me. The business management courses were quite boring, but system dynamics immediately got me really involved and passionate and I decided that I wanted to do my master thesis in that field”, says Sebastian Bernal Garcia.

Sebastian Bernal Garcia in Colombia
Sebastian Bernal Garcia studied how climate affects malaria outbreaks

El Niño affects malaria outbreaks

The topic he chose for his thesis was how the climate is related to the transmission of malaria outbreaks. When the weather phenomenon El Niño* appears, there is always a malaria epidemic. In fact, he has studied this topic for seven years now.

“I could see that there was a correlation between the warmer and drier climate during El Niño and the transmission of malaria infection. I wanted to understand why, and if there is a causality too”, he says.

Gives tools to mitigate outbreaks

“There were already early-warning systems in place for malaria, but those models were incomplete. Our research adds new robust tools to help avoid the spread of malaria”, Sebastian Bernal Garcia explains.

Sebastian Bernal Garcia was overjoyed to receive the award and very surprised, not only because he knew that there were many qualified competitors, but also because he feels that system dynamics is seldom (if ever) used in environmental economics research.

“I was not alone with this research, there are many people at my university who have been very involved and supportive. Still, the work took much longer than planned, among others because I caught malaria myself. So this award meant a lot in order to continue the research”.

The winner of the 2020 Gunnar Köhlin’s Best Master Thesis Award will be presented on November 20, the last day of the EfD Annual Meeting. Don’t miss it!

News | 13 October 2020