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PhD studentship Respiratory pathogen transmission in university settings

Mathematical Sciences

Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Thursday 01 June 2023
Reference:  SCI2138X1

A 3.5 year PhD studentship, beginning in October 2023, is available to work under the supervision of Dr Kirsty Bolton and Prof Phil O’Neill on “Respiratory pathogen transmission in university settings”. 

About the project

Understanding the mechanisms underlying patterns of SARS-CoV-2 transmission is important for informing strategic public health measures against respiratory pathogens more widely. Universities were identified as likely to support rapid transmission of a new pathogen such as SARS-CoV-2 in their usual mode of operation. This project will build on expertise developed during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic to address key outstanding questions about the degree to which outbreaks can be mitigated while maintaining in-person activities, the extent to which institutional outbreaks are coupled to the epidemic in the surrounding community, and the role of demographic turnover and other seasonal effects. 

In contrast to dynamics at the population-level, transmission dynamics in a university setting may be strongly influenced by the local contact network.   This project will take a data-driven approach to motivate and construct a network or multitype epidemic model for a university, with opportunity to calibrate this model based on a variety of epidemiological data related to SARS-CoV-2 testing. This modelling may then be extended to explore a number of related open questions, such as the role of waning immunity on dynamics in endemic phases of viral circulation and/or the dynamics of respiratory disease transmission in other institutional settings.

We are looking for an applicant with excellent analytic and critical thinking skills, particularly as relevant for statistical analysis, inference, and modelling of deterministic and stochastic processes, with capability to interpret and communicate results. Ability to code in a scientific programming language (e.g. C/C++/python/R) is also required. Previous research experience, knowledge of epidemic modelling, and motivation to work on interdisciplinary problems, are desirable. 


Enright, Jessica, Edward M. Hill, Helena B. Stage, Kirsty J. Bolton, et al. "SARS-CoV-2 infection in UK university students: lessons from September–December 2020 and modelling insights for future student return." Royal Society Open Science 8, no. 8 (2021): 210310.


Funding covers a stipend at the RCUK rate (£17,668 for 2022-23) and fees at the level of a UK domestic student. 

For further information about postgraduate study in mathematics, please see:

Applicants must be resident in the UK and have a 1st class Mathematics degree, preferably at the level of an MSc/MMATH, or international equivalent.  Graduates of another quantitative discipline (e.g. Physics, Data Science, Engineering, Astronomy) may also be considered if they have a strong interest in the project.

Applications to be made via the central University of Nottingham admission process (NottinghamHub, 

Please send any enquiries to Dr Kirsty Bolton (

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