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PhD position in combining behavioural science and infectious disease models.

Are you interested in a PhD that combines behavioural science and infectious disease epidemiology? We’re always working on improving our models for infectious disease transmission, to advise the Dutch government on disease control. Behaviour plays a key role in infectious disease control, and we are starting a new project to get a better understanding on how we can use behavioural data and theory to improve our models. Will you join us in this pursuit?

The department

At RIVM, more than 2300 colleagues work towards a healthy population in a sustainable, safe and healthy living environment. The Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Surveillance (EPI) maps the state of public health with regard to infectious diseases in the Netherlands. Local, regional and national data on infectious diseases are collected, processed, analysed and then reported for the purpose of adequate implementation of infectious disease control. In addition, epidemiological research is initiated and carried out on the basis of the analysis of surveillance data and of substantive knowledge, in order to deepen insight into (determinants of) transmission and to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions. This is done to support control and policy. EPI, in close collaboration with the other departments within the RIVM Centre for Infectious Disease Control (CIb) and other partners, researches the impact of the National Immunisation Programme, as well as prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, pathogens that are transmitted by animals (zoonoses), antimicrobial resistance, and infections in hospitals and nursing homes. EPI also assesses the burden and cost of disease and analyses the impact and effectiveness of control measures. EPI acts as a training location for the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology.

For this position, you will be part of the department of Modelling and Health Economics (MOD). This department or the modelling unit, is a dynamic international and stimulating group comprising modellers and health economists who work closely with colleagues whose expertise spans diverse disciplines, including epidemiologists, statisticians, modellers, microbiologists, virologists, and immunologists. The Department is one of the leading research groups in its field, and maintains numerous collaborative links with external academic and non-academic institutions. MOD has several international projects. For more information, please visit the websites:

The project you will be working on is a collaboration of two departments of EPI (Modelling and Health Economics, and Sexually Transmitted Infections) and the Centre of Society and Behaviour.

The PhD project

The position is part of the project BEHAVING, in which we want to combine behaviour and infectious disease models. With existing survey data from the COVID-19 epidemic and by developing new questionnaires, we want to relate behaviour to personal characteristics and circumstances from outside. We then build this relation into mathematical models for infectious disease transmission, so that we can model what would happen if circumstances change. We will do this for contact reduction during the COVID-19 epidemic, testing behaviour for Chlamydia, and vaccination against measles-mumps-rubella (MMR). As member of the modelling department, you will focus on COVID-19 and measles. For COVID-19, you will analyse data from surveys during the pandemic and use the results to improve an existing COVID-19 model. For MMR, you will use questionnaire data (collected within this project) and vaccine registry data to build a transmission model with behaviour, and simulate future measles outbreaks for scenarios of changing vaccine uptake.

The function

As a PhD student in this project, you will:

  • bring together and analyse data on COVID-19 attitudes and behaviour, and develop a prediction model for contacts based on survey data, and test if an existing mathematical model for COVID-19 transmission can be improved with this prediction model
  • use questionnaire data to predict willingness to vaccinate against measles-mumps-rubella from psychosocial characteristics, and build a population model for measles with psychosocial variables linked to vaccination
  • simulate measles outbreaks and compare strategies to increase vaccine uptake, based on behavioural surveys
  • work in a multidisciplinary project, with behavioural scientists, epidemiologists, statisticians and mathematical modellers
  • publish your results in peer-reviewed journals, and present them at international conferences
  • write a PhD thesis about these analyses, with lessons learned about improving mathematical models for transmission of infectious diseases with behavioural data.

Unique to this position

Doing your PhD research at RIVM is a unique opportunity to work with top scientists from many different disciplines, and to do scientific research with impact to society. As a PhD student you can dedicate your time to doing research in your own project. You will have the possibility to follow courses to broaden your skills.

PhD position
National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)
The Netherlands
Closing date
December 4th, 2023
Posted on
November 6th, 2023 08:23
Last updated
November 6th, 2023 13:31