Doctoral Fellow in Virology, Parasitology and Immunology

Ghent University


Doctoral fellow

Last application date
Dec 15, 2019 10:35

DI04 - Department of Virology, parasitology and immunology

Employment category
Doctoral fellow

Limited duration

MSc Mathematics; MSc Epidemiology; MSc Bio-Statistics; MSc Public Health

Occupancy rate

Vacancy Type
Research staff

Job description
Background: Worldwide more than 1.5 billion people are infected with intestinal worms, the so-called soil-transmitted helminths (STHs). To reduce the morbidity caused by these worms, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends large scale deworming programs during which anthelmintic drugs are periodically administered to children. In 2017, more than 65% of the children living in at risk areas were covered in large scale deworming programs. As these programs progress towards elimination of STHs as a public health problem (defined as the proportion of moderate-to-high intensity infections less than 1%), and ultimately breaking transmission of disease in certain geographical areas, there is an urgent need for evidence-based study designs that allow to assess progress of the programs at the lowest possible cost. Designing such surveys is challenging. First, due to the heterogeneity of STHs infections, it will be impossible to apply one survey design to all implementation units of deworming programs, both within and between countries. Moreover, survey designs applied in an early stage of deworming programs may not guarantee a reliable assessment of STH infections in a later stage, as both prevalence and intensity of infections will decrease over consecutive rounds of drug administration.


Expected outcome of the project: through this project we aim to develop a study design software that can be built into an automated diagnostic tool, which not only provides support program managers in the analysis and reporting of data, but also guides them in planning and designing future surveys.


Objectives of the project: First, the candidate has to parameterize the distributions of STH infections both between and within clusters (e.g. schools) using previously collected data. Second, he/she will have to expand an existing mathematical framework that accounts for the variation in STH infections introduced by factors such as geographical heterogeneity, number of rounds / coverage of drug administration, sampling, and diagnostic tools. Thirdly, he/she will have to link this framework to the operational costs linked to each potential study design, which allows to identify the most cost-effective study design. Finally, the candidate will have to develop a proof-of-concept for a dashboard that can be built into an automated diagnostic tool.


Synergies with other projects: This proposed project is aligned with activities at the Department of Virology, Parasitology and Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University (Belgium) to monitor drug efficacy against STHs; to assess the costs of different diagnostic and sampling efforts; to develop an automated diagnostic tool with built-in and analysis and reporting software. The activities at the Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam (The Netherlands) that are important for the prosed project are the NTD Modelling Consortium, which aims to inform WHO guidelines and the road map for control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases by 2030, and several other projects on mathematical modelling of transmission and control of helminth infections.


Our offer: we offer you a four-year scholarship supervised by two internationally acknowledged academic partners in the field of STHs that are closely working together with health care decision makers (e.g. WHO) and major international funding bodies (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). You will be working with an established group of researchers with complementary expertise on infectious diseases, including but not limited to the development/validation of diagnostic tools both in laboratory and field conditions; anthelmintic resistance; disease modeling; vaccine development; One Health and unraveling host-parasite interactions. You will be embedded the international PhD community of both departments (current PhDs origin from e.g. Peru, Ecuador, Italy, and Ethiopia), and you will be provided sufficient time to improve complementary skills through the Doctoral Programs of both Ghent University and Erasmus MC Rotterdam.


Profile of the candidate

- You have a demonstrable interest in the field of neglected tropical diseases and/or public health

- You are skilled in statistical inference

- You are skilled in performing simulation studies; writing and interpreting of disease transmission models

- You are fluently in coding in statistical software (e.g. R).

- You are able to work independently and should have a strong feeling of responsibility.

- You are fluently in English language, and have good communication skills, oral and in writing

- Recommended are:

o Skills in development of dashboard platforms (e.g. Shiny)

o International mobility, among other things thanks to research stays at institutions external to the one where you acquired your highest academic degree;

o Involvement in eminent academic research in the given discipline, which is clearly reflected in MSc thesis/publications in high-quality academic journals and peer-reviewed books;


Skills / Attitude

- You are quality-oriented;

- You take initiative;

- You are creative;

- You have an eye for detail;

- You are a team player.

How to apply
Applications have to be sent in via email to the latest on December 15, 2019 at 11:59PM (CET).

The following documents should be attached:

- cover letter - motivation letter

- copies of your MSc degree

- reference letters and contact details of at least 2 persons


Please merge all documents into one PDF attachment and mention the reference VAC-PHD-BL-01 in the subject line of your email. Pay attention: Applications sent in after the deadline will not be accepted.


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