University of Exeter funding: Modelling Epidemic Spreading in Cat

Modelling Epidemic Spreading in Cattle Herds, Computer Science – PhD (Funded) Ref: 3471

About the award


Prof. Ronaldo Menezes, University of Exeter (80%)
Dr. Vittoria Colizza, French National Institute for Health and Medical Research, France (10%)
Dr. Christiane Rocha, Federal University of Lavras, Brazil (10%)

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in September 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,009 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in Computer Science in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

As the world consumes more meat and derived products, markets and producers are put in a position of increased pressure to deliver their products efficiently. In a global market, meat products produced in one part of the world can easily find its way across the globe. In order to fulfil demand, livestock producers are constantly moving the animals from place to place so that they can graze in new pastures, or because of trade, or even to have the animals taken to slaughterhouses. As we increase the movement of cattle within countries and even across countries, we also increase the chance of global pandemics which could cause huge financial losses to producers while making consumers pay a higher cost due to scarcity of the product. Epidemic spreading is an active area of research, and computer and analytical models of mobility have been successfully used in the prediction of human diseases such as H1N1, Ebola, Flu, etc. Such modelling may be also used to capture the idiosyncrasies of cattle mobility and help us prevent financial losses due to the spread of foot and mouth (FMD), brucellosis and others. This project aims at modelling the mobility of cattle in Brazil with the intent of helping prevent disease spread in that country. Due to the scale of the datasets and the nature of the country (continental size), livestock transportation in Brazil may include illegal transportation due to the difficulty in auditing all movement. Illegal trade of livestock may hinder any effort of curtailing disease spread; if the amount of illegal trade is large enough, official measures of containment are nullified. The project will look at modelling illegal cattle trade and the effect of this to epidemic thresholds. Moreover, given the continental size of the country, the modelling also has to carefully consider variables such as: mode of transportation, quality of roads, cross-contamination due to the sharing of vehicles, etc. The outcome of this of this project is a more general model of epidemic spread in cattle which can serve as the basis for other livestock modelling. The work is quite multidisciplinary and will involve partners in Brazil. This work also links well with the current global effort to understand cattle movement at the world-wide level.

The applicant should be willing to work with data science models, python programming language (desirable), statistical modelling and have a strong enough background in computer science and maths to enable the applicant to carry independent research.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £15,009 per year tax-free stipend.  Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend.

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. 

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 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 statement outlining how your background fits to the project description.
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying).
• 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 15 March 2019.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham campus the week commencing 31 March 2019.

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:15th March 2019
Value:£15,009 per year for 3.5 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: STEMM PGR Admissions +44 (0)1392 722730 / 5150