Dr Rachel Lowe
BSc MSc PhD
/ Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow
My research involves understanding how environmental and socio-economic factors interact to determine the risk of disease transmission. I lead a group of researchers working between the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases and the Centre on Climate Change & Planetary Health.
I graduated from the University of East Anglia in 2004 with a First Class BSc (Hons) in Meteorology and Oceanography with a year in Europe. I spent one year at the University of Granada, Spain, reading Environmental Science. In 2007, I completed an MSc with distinction in Geophysical Hazards at University College London (UCL), where I received a UCL Graduate Masters Award. In 2011, I obtained a PhD in Mathematics at the University of Exeter (PhD Thesis: Spatio-temporal modelling of climate-sensitive disease risk: towards an early warning system for dengue in Brazil). Alongside my PhD, I was a Network Facilitator for the Leverhulme Trust funded project EUROBRISA: a EURO-BRazilian Initiative for improving South American seasonal forecasts. During the project, I collaborated with climate scientists and public health experts in Brazil, which resulted in my continuing participation in the Brazilian Climate and Health Observatory.
From 2010-2012, I was a Visiting Scientist at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, where I worked with the Malawi Ministry of Health to develop predictive models for malaria and a platform to integrate climate information and rural telemedicine. From 2012-2016, I was a Postdoctoral Scientist and Head of Climate Services for Health at the Catalan Institute for Climate Sciences (IC3) in Barcelona, Spain. I have worked with the World Health Organization as a temporary advisor on developing decision making tools for climate and health in Europe. I am a visiting scholar at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal).
My research is funded by a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship, supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund. My current project concerns modelling the impact of global environmental change on vector-borne diseases, such as dengue, Zika, chikungunya and malaria.
The aim is to develop statistical and mathematical models to understand the relationship between climatic, socio-economic and demographic factors and variations in disease risk in space and time. Understanding geographical risk is important for targeting limited public health resources, while predicting future risk helps public health authorities plan for changing disease patterns due to shifts in climate or human behaviour.
I also hold a Royal Society Research Grant for Research Fellows, funding a 4-year PhD studentship for Sophie Lee to investigate the role of climate, cities, and connectivity in the transmission of arboviruses in Brazil.
I lead the dengue modelling component of a UK Space Agency project, which integrates seasonal climate forecasts in a dengue early warning system to predict the probability of dengue outbreaks in Vietnam up to 7 months in advance.
Alongside my research, I organise and teach on international and regional climate and health capacity building activities for postgraduate students and public health practitioners, with partners at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, International Centre for Theoretical Physics, and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation.
My outreach activities and research on dengue early warning systems have been showcased in policy reports published by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, World Meteorological Organization and World Health Organization.