UKHSA PhD Studentship Opportunity at the MRC Biostatistics Unit

UKHSA PhD Studentship Opportunity

We are currently seeking applications for a UKHSA PhD Studentship for admission in 2024 for the project entitled Development of Agent-Based Modelling for Prospective and Retrospective Assessment of Pandemic Interventions, working with Dr Paul Birrell and Prof Daniela De Angelis. Informal discussions are welcomed (contact information is on their linked pages).

Modelling played a key role in decision-making by government bodies throughout the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, from the much-publicised reproduction number to ‘roadmap’ scenarios for re-opening society.

The mathematical models used varied wildly in the level of population detail that they attempted to capture. Most monitored disease transmission at the population level and were used to assess interventions that apply to all. Alternatively, individual-level based models (IBMs) can allow the assessment of networking behaviours, household composition and employment influence an individual’s infection risk and how they collectively contribute to the spread of disease. These IBMs enable the prospective and retrospective evaluation of the imposition and relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions that have impact at more granular level (e.g. changes to isolation rules, mask-wearing, testing guidelines, etc).

The objective of this project is to develop an IBM for respiratory infections. The work will build on the JUNE model, developed and piloted during the pandemic at Durham University. JUNE is unique among models of its type in both the size of the population it can handle, and in the richness of individual data that it can incorporate. The project will be in collaboration with the UKHSA and colleagues at Durham.

The PhD candidate will focus on the development of the statistical methods to calibrate such models that require an extreme computational burden; estimating key epidemic quantities from a rich array of pandemic data. The student will have the opportunity to scrutinise decisions made during the COVID-19 roadmap planning; and to investigate application of the modelling approach to other health priorities (e.g. winter pressure).

The successful candidate will receive funding from the UKHSA at the home fee rate, though applications from overseas students are welcome.

Formal applications need to be submitted to the University of Cambridge by 12.00 BST on 18th September 2023.

Further information about the project can be found here.