Informing transboundary disease spread with animal movement technology

This fully funded 3.5 year PhD training programme provides unique inter-disciplinary training in transboundary disease epidemiology, mathematical modelling and statistics, animal movement, and health economics. Based within University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine, within the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, and working in collaboration with MSD Animal Health, this PhD provides a unique opportunity to gain experience and support from both an academic institute and an industry partner.

Start date

1 January 2024


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

Fully funded by MSD Animal Health

Funding information

Stipend at the standard UKRI rate (£18, 622 p.a. for 2023-24).


Background to project

The single disease with the largest impact globally on agriculture is Foot and Mouth Disease. Not only does this disease prevent countries from breaking out of the poverty gap, but also new outbreaks can cause devastation to the agriculture industry and supporting functions, as has previously been seen in the UK during 2001. There is a clear gap in disease surveillance globally, allowing the disease to go unchecked in many countries, and presenting a real and constant threat to the UK. Animal monitoring technology is well-established for identification, reproduction, health and productivity. There is currently an unmet market opportunity to use this novel technology, particularly animal tracking and tracing technology to improve disease control.


The successful applicant will collaborate with epidemiologists, vets, and industry professionals at MSD Animal Health to develop computational epidemiology-based tools. These tools will help to improve prediction of disease spread and the effect of interventions such as vaccination.

The Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Research Group is an established community of researchers based at Surrey, working across disciplines, and bringing together biologists, vets, mathematical modellers, engineers, and health economists, to address the challenges posed by NTDs. The University is also a member of London Centre for Neglected Tropical Disease Research. MSD Animal Health is a leading company in both pharmaceuticals and technology for the health and welfare of animals. They work with governments and intergovernmental organisations, such as the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and World Health Organisation (WHO), to mitigate the impact and spread of transboundary animal diseases with economic and welfare importance. The company believes that this is necessary to improve human and animal health and welfare, to provide a sustainable food supply for the future, to protect customer in developed nations, and to build future markets in developing countries.

Eligibility criteria

Academic Qualifications

You will need to hold a Bachelor’s degree (at least a 2:1) in any related disciple (e.g Biology, Epidemiology, Computational Science, Mathematical Modelling). 

Essential attributes:

  • Good level of experience of mathematical modelling (R or similar).
  • Fundamental knowledge of infectious disease transmission modelling. 
  • Understanding of epidemiology.
  • Strong written and verbal communications skills.
  • Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills in a relevant project.
  • Good time management.
  • Willingness to work independently, and in a team with industry partners.

Desirable attributes:

  • MSc (or near completion) in a relevant subject area. 
  • Knowledge of stochastic models of infectious disease transmission.
  • Knowledge of online tools and applications. 
  • Knowledge of cost-effectiveness analysis. 

Open to candidates who pay UK/home rate fees. See UKCISA for further information.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Veterinary Medicine and Science programme page. In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Emma Taylor
Dan Horton
01 VSM 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 689888

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