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Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool

PhD Studentship: Spatial Epidemiology and Ecological Modelling of Leptospirosis

Applications are invited for a four-year PhD studentship to work on the above topic, 
jointly supervised by Prof Mike Begon (Department of Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour) 
and Prof Peter Diggle (Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute 
of Infection and Global health). The studentship includes fees for UK/EU candidates 
and an annual stipend of at least  £13,590. Applicants should have, or expect to 
obtain by summer 2012, an upper second or first class honours BSc, or an MSc, in 
statistics or epidemiology (or a related discipline). They should also demonstrate 
an enthusiasm for undertaking inter-disciplinary research at the interface of 
statistics, ecology, epidemiology and mathematical modelling, including field-work 
in Brazil. 

Scientific background and objectives

Emerging and re-emerging infections are now widely acknowledged to be an urgent 
and growing global threat to human health, especially in urban slums, where humans 
are typically crowded, and live in close proximity to animal and environmental 
reservoirs of infection. Leptospirosis, a spirochetal zoonosis, has emerged as an 
important health problem as slum settlements have expanded rapidly worldwide and 
created conditions for rat-borne transmission. In countries such as Brazil, large 
epidemics occur each year in slum communities during seasonal periods of heavy rainfall. 

The key, interdisciplinary challenge in planning to combat the disease is to understand 
both the infection dynamics in the natural reservoir, the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), 
and the effects of natural and social environmental factors that translate this into 
disease risk and hence patterns of human infection. The successful candidate will
contribute to a programme of research being carried out by a collaborative partnership 
involving the University of Liverpool, Yale University (USA) and the Oswaldo Cruz 
Foundation (Brazil). This programme will build on continuing, long-term prospective 
studies of leptospirosis amongst slum residents in the city of Salvador, Brazil.

Depending on the successful candidate's academic background and scientific interests, 
the specific focus of the PhD project could be either of:

1. Identifying and quantifying the ecological factors driving leptospire dynamics in 
its reservoir host in tropical slums, and accounting for spatio-temporal variation in 
consequent rates of leptospire shedding into the environment.

2. Determining how leptospire dynamics in rodent and environmental reservoirs, 
together with climatic, structural and social determinants in slums, influence 
the epidemiology of human disease.

Informal inquiries: to Prof Mike Begon (Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour, 
[log in to unmask]) or Prof Peter Diggle (Epidemiology and Population Health, 
[log in to unmask])

Application procedure: Please submit electronically a letter of application, along 
with a full CV and the names of two academic referees to Mrs Linda Marsh, 
Research Support Office, Institute of Integrative Biology ([log in to unmask]).

Deadline for applications: Monday 16 April 2012

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