Complex Systems and Infectious Diseases - Computer Science – MPhil/PhD (Funded) Ref: 3158

About the award


Academic Supervisors:

Dr Leon Danon, University of Exeter

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciencesis inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in September 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in Exeter in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

Project Description:
This is an exciting opportunity for a fully-funded PhD position in data science, collective behaviour and infectious disease dynamics. This PhD will use complexity and network theory to develop novel methods that address real-world problems.

 Two example projects: 
The complex network of interactions between co-circulating infections:
Bacteria and viruses often interact with each other in the host competing for resources and space. and have been shown to modify the ability of the other to transmit. Nevertheless, most studies consider considering pathogen species in isolation. Some disease-causing respiratory tract infections are poly-microbial, resulting from synergistic and antagonistic interactions between pathogens. Few of these interactions are well understood, due to the complexity of the system. Moving beyond this requires taking a dynamic, complex systems approach, inspired by analysis of available data. This project aims to develop a data-driven theoretical framework for understanding the ecology of co-circulating infections in human populations. This is a fundamentally inter-disciplinary project that would suit an ambitious student with interests in epidemiology and disease ecology.

Is clinician behaviour contagious?
Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats facing modern medicine. Primary care is responsible for 75% of all antibiotic prescribing, most commonly for respiratory and urinary tract infections in children and the elderly, suggesting primary care is a priority for antimicrobial stewardship research. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the social influences experienced by clinicians are important, however the resulting impact on stewardship efforts remain understudied. This project takes a network science approach to quantify, understand and model clinician prescribing behaviour driven by the analysis of antimicrobial prescription records. Using multi-layer network approaches we aim to understand the temporal nature of these data and unpick whether individual behaviour is ‘contagious’ or not. This poses a significant methodological and computational challenge and would suit an ambitious student with interests in collective behaviour and networks.

The PhD studentship will be awarded to the best candidate and would suit a highly-motivated student who could take the opportunity to shape the topic and direction of the work.

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology (e.g. physics, mathematics, statistics, biology).  Candidates should demonstrate a keen interest in interdisciplinary science and an interest in infectious diseases.
If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents. 

• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Research proposal
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number.
• Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English

The closing date for applications is midnight on June 25th  2018.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham date TBC

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.


Application deadline:25th June 2018
Number of awards:1
Value:£14,777 for 3.5 yrs
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Support Office +44 (0)1392 722730/5150