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  Safeguarding urban communities: Using data science to determine the impact of the spatial structure of urban activities and residential segregation on the spreading of infectious diseases

   Department of Geography and Planning

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  Prof F Rowe, Dr Carmen Cabrera-Arnau  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project Description

This project aims to determine the role of the spatial structure of urban activities and spatial socioeconomic segregation on the speed and geography of infectious disease spreading across socioeconomic groups. The research involves a partnership with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and will seek to learn lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic for future health crises, drawing on Second Generation Surveillance System and Respiratory DataMart data. Specifically, the project seeks to:

•        Determine the extent to which differences in the spatial structure of urban activities shape the rate of disease transmission;

•         Assess how different configurations of the spatial structure of urban activities relate to variations in local levels of socioeconomic segregation;

•        Evaluate differences in the effects of nonphamaceuthical interventions on contagion exposure across different socioeconomic groups as a function of the spatial structure of urban activities and socioeconomic segregation.

Skill requirements:

The project requires the following essential quantitative data science skills, including the capacity to analyse spatial data and / or infections data, GIS, and coding skills in R and / or Python. Desirable skills include knowledge and experience using machine learning, network analysis and simulation methods; the use of GPS mobile phone data; and, experience in writing research academic articles.


For exceptional applicant candidates, training can be provided in one or more of the skills required for the project.

Supervisors for this project:

Francisco Rowe - [Email Address Removed]

Carmen Cabrera-Arnau - [Email Address Removed]

Donna Clarke - [Email Address Removed]

Lorenzo Cattarino - [Email Address Removed]

Application Process

Candidates wishing to apply should complete the University of Liverpool application form [How to apply for a PhD - University of Liverpool] applying for a PhD in Geography (Desk based) and uploading: Degree Certificates & Transcripts, an up-to-date CV, a covering letter/personal statement and two academic references.

Architecture, Building & Planning (3) Computer Science (8) Geography (17) Mathematics (25)

Funding Notes

The studentship is co-funded by the ESRC’s North West Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership and the UK Health Safety Agency. The studentship is open for UK and international students. It is supported for 3 years and includes full tuition fees plus a tax-free stipend (starting at £19,237 for 2024/25 and increasing year by year). Funds for training activities, travel and accommodation, and visits to the UKHSA offices will also be available. A £2,000 bonus per year may be available from UKHSA, subject to funding availability.

For more information about the funding, see the NWSSDTP student handbook at:


Abbiasov, T., Heine, C., Sabouri, S. et al., 2024. The 15-minute city quantified using human mobility data. Nat Hum Behav
Bassolas, A., Barbosa-Filho, H., Dickinson, B. et al., 2019. Hierarchical organization of urban mobility and its connection with city livability. Nat Commun 10, 4817.
Cabrera-Arnau, C., Zhong, C., Batty, M. et al., 2023. Inferring urban polycentricity from the variability in human mobility patterns. Sci Rep 13, 5751.
Graells-Garrido, E., Serra-Burriel, F., Rowe, F., et al., 2021. A city of cities: Measuring how 15-minute urban accessibility shapes human mobility in Barcelona. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0250080.

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