Four female CMMID Early Career Researchers earn placements with UKHSA

On International Day of Women and Girls in Science we share news of four early career researchers who have earned placements with the UK Health Security Agency.
Quote by Georgia

On this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science we showcase four PhD students at LSHTM, who are members of the Centre of Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (CMMID), and have been selected for placements with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The Early Career Researchers, all women, now have exciting opportunities to work with the public sector research organisation, tasked with protecting the public against threats posed by infectious diseases, including COVID-19 and Monkeypox.

According to the United Nations, science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines still struggle to overcome persistent gender gaps, including women typically receiving smaller research grants than their male colleagues and their work being underrepresented in high-profile journals. The fact that the female LSHTM researchers were successful in receiving four out of seven available placements with UKHSA is therefore not just a fantastic achievement on an individual level, but also a further boost for women in modelling. Ciara Judge, one of the four early career researchers is also certain it reflects on the centre as a whole: “I think the track record for the environment being created here speaks for itself when you look at this UKHSA internship; out of seven total placements, four are being filled by female members of CMMID!”. In November 2022, members of CMMID and the group ‘Women in CMMID’ were awarded a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support Women in infectious disease modelling at LSHTM. The project supports the career development and capacity building of (cis- or transgender) women working in infectious disease modelling at CMMID for the year 2023. 

Outbreak modelling and epidemic response outside academia

The four researchers, Georgia Gore-Langton, Katie Tiley, Emilie Finch and Ciara Judge will take up their three-month placements throughout 2023, working with the Public Health Science: Infectious Disease Modelling team within the All Hazards Intelligence directorate. The Early Career Researcher programme aims to help build organisational capacity within UKHSA through specialist input and expert skills, as well as providing the researchers professional experience in a public sector research organisation. “My research focuses on combining multiple data sources within modelling frameworks to better understand the dynamics of infectious disease outbreaks, I think that will give me a valuable perspective when working on analytical questions around current outbreaks”, Emilie Finch is hoping.

For Katie Tiley, the placement is an important opportunity to gain epidemiology experience outside of academia. She hopes to be working on outbreak modelling and real-time epidemic response. The four researchers will also have the chance to provide scientific support to modelling climate-sensitive infectious diseases, in collaboration with the Centre for Climate and Health Security and academic institutions. This will include technical aspects of ecological modelling, epidemiological modelling, and geospatial data analysis. Georgia Gore-Langton, the first PhD student to start her placement in January 2023 has already joined a team working on modelling climate suitability in the UK for Culex mosquitoes, the West Nile Virus vector. She hopes the placement will help her expand her mathematical modelling and coding skills and will be an opportunity to gain experience of working for the UKHSA on questions of public health concern. For Ciara Judge, the opportunity to work with UKHSA is particularly exciting, she wants to see how people with different types of expertise work together to solve public health problems, whilst working a fast-paced environment.

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