A group of researchers at Waterloo's Perimeter Institute are using physics to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

They hope to use their expertise to learn more about the virus that causes COVID-19, track it and prevent further spread.

The researchers specialize in many different areas, from cosmology to quantum gravity. They're teaming up to use their expertise in unique ways to find connections and use their knowledge to help.

Robert Myers, director of the institute, said he's proud around a dozen researchers are shifting their focus to help with COVID-19.

"The math skills, the ways of thinking, the data analysis that people do in a different field, that has applications and that experience is useful," Myers said.

Mark Penney has put quantum field theory aside, instead using his math skills to look at network modelling.

"How to design those strategies and then we evaluate the strategies and how effective they are using the techniques in physics," Penney said.

He's working on designs to update technologies like Canada's COVID-19 alert app. He said the existing app could inform decisions about who should get tested or vaccinated in the future.

"By using the information that is stored just your phone, it can suggest, you're a person who has a lot of regular contacts, you're a person who is a good candidate to get vaccinated," Penney said.

Astrophysicist Niayesh Afshordi said the connection between cosmology and health care isn't as far fetched as you might think.

"People are kind of like galaxies," Afshordi said. "They are gravitated towards each other."

Afshordi has created a public dashboard aimed at making predictions on COVID-19 mortality rates changing based on external factors.

The researchers hope their projects can help with the pandemic, whether by information health experts in their findings or affecting policies locally, provincially or across the country.

They're working closely with others from the Universities of Waterloo, Guelph and Toronto.