19 October 2021 

We are looking for a talented graduate in a relevant discipline for an infectious disease epidemiology & modelling PhD Studentship. Open to UK, EU and international applicants.

Closes: 5pm, 26 November 2021. 

The project you will be working on is ‘Homelessness and elimination of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) in people who inject drugs: Building evidence for better action‘ led by Professor Peter Vickerman with Dr Adelina Artenie, Dr Peter Mackie, Dr Jack Stone and Professor Matthew Hickman.

About the Project

Infectious Disease epidemiology and modelling PhD Studentship via the fully-funded GW4 BioMed2 MRC Doctoral Training Programme. This studentship is available to UK, EU and International applicants.

We are seeking a talented graduate in a relevant discipline (e.g., Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, Computer Science) wishing to develop strong interdisciplinary skills at the interface of public health, social policy, epidemiology, and infectious disease modelling. Throughout the PhD, the student will develop a well-rounded skillset applicable to the study of other infectious diseases and sectors.

The PhD studentship starts in October 2022. The student will be based within the Population Health Sciences (PHS) Institute at the University of Bristol and be linked to the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University. PHS is a leading centre for collaborative and multi-disciplinary research and our team is comprised of researchers with distinct expertise in quantitative methodologies and modelling. 

The student will be in a rich, stimulating and highly supportive learning environment, and will have the opportunity to collaborate on other projects. The student will have free access to the comprehensive short-course program within PHS, offering training on a range of topics, including epidemiological and statistical methods and infectious disease modelling.

Within both institutions, the quality of research was rated as world leading or internationally excellent by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. Co-supervisors on this project have made landmark contributions to the fields of addiction, HIV, HCV and homelessness, with expertise spanning epidemiology, infectious disease modelling, public health and social policy. 

The lead supervisor (Peter Vickerman) leads the infectious disease modelling group at the University of Bristol, comprising >20 staff and students. His group has an international reputation on using the latest mathematical modelling techniques to model the transmission of HIV/HCV among people who inject drugs and other marginalised groups, producing results which guide policy. 

Matthew Hickman is Head of PHS and co-director of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation, which is based in PHS. His work has informed public health guidance on the management of HIV/HCV. 

Co-supervisor Peter Mackie is recognised as a leading international expert in the field of housing and homelessness and his work led to the development of new homelessness legislation in multiple countries. 

This collaborative group has a strong policy orientation, carrying links with international agencies (WHO, UNAIDS, UN-Habitat) and community-based organizations, thereby ensuring that research outputs are timely and can inform policy. Co-supervisors, Adelina Artenie and Jack Stone are emerging leaders in the epidemiology of injecting drug use with expertise in quantitative methods and infectious disease modelling.

Project overview

While it is acknowledged that people who inject drugs experience frequent homelessness and socio-economic disadvantage that can increase HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) risk, these social determinants of health are rarely considered in HIV/HCV elimination programs. This funded PhD will use epidemiological methods and infectious disease modelling to determine the importance of public health responses addressing the risks associated with homelessness for tackling the HIV/HCV epidemics among people who inject drugs. 

This project is novel, timely and of global relevance, and can inform guidelines in the field, as for the first time, UNAIDS are implementing targets that address structural drivers of HIV risk to strengthen the global response to HIV/AIDS. 

The student will receive training to address the following general aims, which can be tailored according to individual interests:

  1. Systematically review and synthesise evidence on how homelessness affects HIV/HCV risk behaviours and access to prevention and treatment interventions among people who inject drugs
  2. Use context-specific data to assess how different forms of housing instability (e.g., street homelessness, precarious temporary living arrangements) may have differing effects on HIV/HCV infection risk among people who inject drugs in various global settings 
  3. Using infectious disease modelling and based on findings from aims 1 and 2, determine the importance of reducing homelessness or housing instability and of scaling-up HIV/HCV prevention and treatment interventions among homeless/unstably housed people who inject drugs for achieving HIV/HCV elimination in different global settings

 Our groups at the University of Bristol and Cardiff University hold several collaborations nationally and internationally, providing an opportunity for the student to work in different global settings. There is also an opportunity to consider the context-specific effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on housing. Possible settings include the UK, US, Kenya and India. The PhD will result in high impact journal articles, with opportunities to present results at national/international meetings.

Candidate requirements

Applications are welcome from highly numerate individuals across a wide range of disciplines who have, or are expected to achieve, at least a 2:1 or higher degree (or equivalent) and/or a research Masters degree in a relevant discipline.

How to apply

Student applications can be made via the GW4 BioMed2 website: https://www.gw4biomed.ac.uk. The closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday, 26th November 2021. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an informal virtual interview with the lead supervisors between Monday 31st January 2022 and Friday 11th February 2022. The formal interviews will be held virtually on the 16th and 17th February 2022.

A GW4 BioMed2 MRC DTP studentship includes full tuition fees at the UK/Home rate, a stipend at the minimum UKRI rate (£15,609 for 21/22), a Research & Training Support Grant (RTSG) valued between £2,000-£5,000 per year and £300 annual travel and conference grant based on a 3.5-year full-time studentship. These funding arrangements will be adjusted pro-rata for part-time studentships. The GW4 BioMed2 MRC DTP studentships are available to UK, EU and International applicants. The GW4 institutions have all agreed to cover the difference in cost between home and international tuition fees. This means that international candidates will not be expected to cover this cost.

For any informal queries, please contact Peter Vickerman (peter.vickerman@bristol.ac.uk)

Funding Notes

The GW4 BioMed2 MRC DTP studentships are available to UK, EU and International applicants. The GW4 institutions have all agreed to cover the difference in cost between home and international tuition fees. This means that international candidates will not be expected to cover this cost.

Further information

About the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit [HPRU] in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol 

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol is one of 14 HPRUs across England, part of a £58.7 million investment by the NIHR to protect the health of the nation. 

The NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation is a partnership between Public Health England and University of Bristol, in collaboration with MRC Biostatistics Research Unit at the University of Cambridge and University of the West of England. 

Each NIHR HPRU undertakes high quality research that is used by PHE to keep the public safe from current and emerging public health threats.

About the NIHR 

The mission of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:

  • Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
  • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
  • Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
  • Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
  • Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
  • Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.