Machine learning and portfolio approaches to cystic echinococcosis area risk classification and prioritisation of interventions

Exciting PhD studentship modelling cystic echinococcosis and evaluating optimal surveillance and control alternatives. The successful candidate will join a vibrant multidisciplinary international group to support policy making with real world impact.

Start date
1 October 2019
3 years
Application deadline
Funding source
One Health European Joint Programme and the Longhurst Legacy Fund
Funding information

Funding will cover University fees at the UK/EU rate for three years and a stipend for three years at RCUK levels (£15,000 per year). In addition, funding includes bench fees to a value of £6,000 over the three years to cover conference attendance. For further information see the Veterinary Medicine and Science PhD course page (Fees and Funding tab). The PhD studentship is expected to commence in October 2019.


Cystic echinococcosis (CE) is a zoonotic parasitic disease of significant public health concern in many parts of the world. For example, over 5,000 new CE cases are reported in South America every year and a recent study has estimated that more than 150,000 people in Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey might be affected by CE. The burden, extending to include economic impacts, is mostly felt in subsistence livestock keepers and other marginalised rural and peri-urban populations where other health competing threats persist.

Risk classification and ranking of administrative units are frequently used to help prioritization of resources for disease control. Whereas risk is a key parameter to inform resource allocation, it often fails to explicitly reflect the level of existing preparedness against the threat of concern, CE in our case. The large number of activities contributing to disease control capability, and their likely heterogeneous implementation across the units of interest, make comparisons of capability performance, for example among administrative units, a complex task.

Our key research objectives are:

1. The derivation of a comprehensive composite metric of CE susceptibility, and through this, identification of areas of vulnerability and risk where additional investment in control is warranted.

2. Solve the complex allocation of scarce resources as captured by the large matrix of multiple intervention and surveillance options across multiple spatial units with very different susceptibility baselines (susceptibility estimated from the previous obejctive).

The model will be developed using data from Rio Negro, Argentina initially, which will then be extended to the whole country and data from various East European countries (such as Bulgaria). The student will work under the supervision of Dr. Joaquin Prada and Dr. Victor del Rio Vilas at Surrey, in collaboration with Dr. Adriano Casulli from ISS and Prof. Edmundo Larrieu.

Related links
One Health European Joint Programme

Eligibility criteria

Application is open to UK / EU students.

This is an interdisciplinary project requiring computational and mathematical skills as well as an interest in biological processes.

  • Applicants are required to hold an undergraduate degree in Mathematics or a related subjects (e.g. Physics, Engineering).
  • Undergraduates with a degree in Biological Sciences or a related subjects are also welcomed as long as they have a strong interest in mathematical modelling.
  • A Masters degree in a public health or epidemiological-related subject is desirable.
  • Experience in mathematical modelling, biostatistics or machine learning is desirable but not essential.

See information about our English Language requirements.

How to apply

Please apply for this PhD through the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science PhD course page.

Applicants are invited to contact Dr. Prada to discuss the project informally prior to making an application.

Veterinary Medicine and Science PhD

Application deadline

Contact details

Joaquin M. Prada

Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health

You will be based at the University of Surrey; this is an ideal location which promotes informal interactions among the member of the team and constant exposure to innovative approaches, problems and settings beyond pure academia (vHive).

You will also have the opportunity to travel to Argentina and directly engage with key stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Health, PAHO and WHO, as well as to the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, where multiple networking opportunities will arise, for example from the HERACLES network, as well as NDTND, Emia and PERITAS projects. As a EJP PhD student, you will benefit from international and interdisciplinary (med-vet-environment) development and networking activities organized by EJP.


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