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PhD candidate Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Center: the spread of Covid through social networks

Job description
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major public health challenge, and has highlighted the central role of social contacts and networks in spreading the disease. You will be working on the question how spatial and social connectivity drive societal inequities in transmission and control of infectious disease outbreaks in The Netherlands and how these can be better addressed in future pandemic control. To this end, you will analyse extensive population network datasets and develop mathematical models that capture the role and impact of networks on the transmission and control of infectious diseases. Because most existing models are either too simple to produce meaningful answers or too cumbersome to deliver timely answers, the aim is to develop more agile models that sufficiently capture social and geographical heterogeneities and the dynamics of connectivity over time. The resulting models should address societally relevant questions about the links between social, demographic, and geographical health disparities and pandemics, and questions about the best prevention strategies for solving these disparities.

Your project will be part of a larger multidisciplinary initiative called "Towards social and urban resilience for pandemics and disasters (SURE)", funded through the Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Center (PDPC). SURE involves three other PhD projects on societal resilience to pandemics and disasters, and includes collaborations between Erasmus MC, Erasmus University Rotterdam, TU Delft, Leiden UMC, Statistics Netherlands, Municipal Health Services Rotterdam-Rijnmond, University of Amsterdam, and University of Twente. For the position advertised here, you will be based at the Department of Public Health of Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, where you will be supervised by assistant professor Luc E. Coffeng and professor Sake J. de Vlas as part of the research section Infectious Disease Control. With regard to large population network datasets, you will collaborate intensively with the ODISSEI group of associate professor Tom Emery at the Faculty of Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Work environment
At the Department of Public Health, we are dedicated to improve population health at local, national, and international level through excellent research and education. Our research is characterised as highly multidisciplinary and is focused on the development and use of innovative methods. Collaboration with and direct impact on practice and policy are at the heart of our work. Within the Department, the research unit Infectious Disease Control is an internationally leading group in mathematical modelling of transmission and control of parasite, bacterial, and viral infections, with long-standing expertise in individual-based modelling.

The position will also be affiliated with the Department for Public Administration and Sociology at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. The department specializes in research that leverages complex, large scale, linked data to answer pressing societal problems and hosts the Dutch National Infrastructure for Social Science, ODISSEI. The department has expertise in the linkage of secure administrative data with diverse and innovative forms of data from online experiments and panels, which are then used to understand and develop interventions for complex social processes. The department supports graduate students in utilizing this data and infrastructure through targeted, hands-on, graduate training programs.

Erasmus MC, TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam have joined forces in the Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Center (PDPC). PDPC aims to prepare society for future pandemics and disasters. We will reduce vulnerabilities and risks and build resilience through effective disaster prevention, preparedness and recovery measures. Convergence of the technical, medical and social sciences is essential for developing the next generation of approaches to disasters and pandemics. In the foreseeable future, our society can expect many more and unforeseen virus outbreaks and extreme events because of climate change. But how do we protect society from the next pandemic or disaster? From which of the lessons learnt can we develop prevention and intervention measures, and how can research contribute to preparedness?

Qualifications and skills
The position is offered to MSc graduates in Health Sciences, Public Health, Epidemiology, Medicine, Mathematics, Econometrics, Biostatistics, Complexity Science, or a related field. Key skills that you will be developing and working with are quantitative analysis (including individual-based modelling), setting up computational frameworks and pipelines (e.g., in R), scientific communication (oral and written), and interacting with stakeholders and experts from other disciplines.

We offer the opportunity for candidates to deepen their affinity and acquire further experience with applied Bayesian statistics, uncertainty quantification and propagation, cross-disciplinary communication, and efficiently exploring and adopting new subject matter. The Department further highly supports candidates who want to further develop their skills in acquisition, leadership, goal-oriented working, creativity, initiative, engagement, vision, and visibility. You must have good command of the English language, both verbally and in writing (i.e. command of the Dutch language is not required).

Before you apply please check our conditions for employment.

Terms of employment
You will receive a 4-year term contract. The gross monthly salary amounts a maximum of € 4.707,- (scale 10), depending on your level of education and relevant experience and based on a full-time working week of 36 hours. The terms of employment are in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement for University Medical Centers (CAO UMC).

Information and application
For more information about this position, please contact Luc Coffeng, assistant professor,, or Sake de Vlas, Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling,

For queries regarding your application, please contact Jerry Chandansingh, Recruiter, by phone number: +31 (0)6 500 310 06.

PhD position
Erasmus MC
the Netherlands
Closing date
July 11th, 2022
Posted on
June 29th, 2022 10:48
Last updated
June 29th, 2022 10:48