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Quantifying the effect of individual heterogeneity in epidemic spread on a network.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J McLeod
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

PhD Scholarship in Epidemic spread in an animal population

Every individual in a network has their own characteristics, some are more social than
others and have more contacts, some have fewer contacts but may spend longer overall
with this small number. When an infection disease is introduced into the population, this
heterogeneity is increased as the disease affects people differently. Some individuals have
a higher infectivity than others, some may have an additional health condition that affects
their potential to spread the disease. All these factors can have a striking effect on the
spread of a disease through a network of individuals. This project will aim to develop models
of disease spread on a network that take into account these individual characteristics,
quantify their effect on disease spread and identify possible methods for epidemic control.

Human data of this type is often difficult to obtain so we will use an animal population as a test
case. Data from the spread of TB in the possum population of the Orongorongo valley combined
with full contact tracing data from this population will allow for parameterisation and verification
of the models developed. With this population in mind the project will establish methods not only
to contain the spread of a disease but also to promote its spread through a given population.
Results from this second case will be vital if New Zealand decides to use bio-control methods to
control the possum population.

The student will be enrolled at the University of Canterbury and will work under the supervision
of Dr Jeanette McLeod. The student will be co-supervised by Dr Dan Tompkins of Landcare
Research. They will also spend time at Landcare research as part of their studies.
Applicants for this scholarship should hold an Honours or Masters level qualification in
mathematics, statistics or a related discipline and have a strong interest in ecology.

Funding Notes

The scholarship is tenable for three years and will pay for tuition fees (for a domestic or
international student) and a stipend per annum.

This Phd Scholarship comes under our Complexity & the Biosphere theme.


Te Pūnaha Matatini – ‘the meeting place of many faces’ – is a Centre of Research Excellence hosted by the University of Auckland that will develop methods and approaches for transforming complex data about New Zealand’s environment, economy, and society into knowledge, tools, and insight for making better decisions.

Our Research Themes
Complex Data Analytics
Complex Economic and Social Systems
Complexity & the Biosphere

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