2020-21 HPRU Modelling & Economics Studentships

NIHR-funded PhD studentships in applied health protection research at LSHTM in collaboration with Public Health England

Modelling & Economics

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has been awarded three five-year grants from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in collaboration with Public Health England (PHE) for three Heath Protection Research Units (HPRUs) in Environmental Change & Health, Immunisation, and Modelling & Economics.

HPRUs are joint research units that facilitate world-class research between PHE and leading UK universities in areas of applied health protection research that are directly relevant to the mission of PHE. They have a strong emphasis on research training, and provide opportunities for students to undertake research degrees on highly topical issues that feed directly into national policy making and public health response. 

Read more about the NIHR funding competion

Within the Modelling & Economics HPRU funding is available for two three-and-a-half year full-time PhD studentships to start in September 2020.

The successful candidates will conduct research in a range of cutting-edge applied health protection research topics.

The research training environment

Students will be mentored by supervisors at both LSHTM and PHE, and be guided by an advisory committee consisting of at least two other experienced researchers who may be external to LSHTM and PHE. They will have the unique opportunity of conducting research in both academic and public health settings, and spend time in both institutions.

Students, academics, and professionals come to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) from all over the world because of its international presence, collaborative ethos, research excellence and prestigious study programmes in public and global health.

Details are available about the School's rankings, awards and current research in action

Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases

The Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (CMMID) is a multidisciplinary grouping of epidemiologists, mathematicians, economists, statisticians and clinicians from across all three faculties of the LSHTM. Research focuses on understanding and predicting the epidemiology of infectious diseases so that more effective control programmes can be devised. Researchers are developing and applying mathematical models to a range of infections including HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, HPV, tuberculosis, hepatitis C, influenza, rotavirus, measles, varicella, pneumococcal disease, Hib, malaria and sleeping sickness. More fundamental research includes developing methods to measure underlying contact patterns, sampling hard-to-reach populations (such as drug users), efficiently fitting complex mathematical models to data, and the integration of epidemiological models with economic analyses. CMMID runs the flusurvey, an online influenza surveillance platform. CMMID is actively engaged in developing links with other modelling groups; members of the CMMID include mathematical modellers working at Public Health England (formerly the HPA) and the Royal Veterinary College.

The Vaccine Centre

The Vaccine Centre at the LSHTM is a consortium formed of over 100 scientists based at the school and among its partner institutions with a common interest in research and training on vaccines. The Centre encompasses a tremendous breadth of vaccine research from vaccine design and immunological characterisation through clinical trials, and on to epidemiological evaluation, vaccine safety, economic modelling, social science and policy analysis. Centre scientists work in over 50 different countries worldwide and contribute to some of the principal global networks of vaccine investigation. The portfolio of current projects includes research on vaccines to control malaria, tuberculosis, pneumococcal and meningococcal diseases, influenza, measles, rubella, HPV, rotavirus, Hib, Hepatitis B, norovirus, dengue, Ebola, sleeping sickness and traveller’s diarrhoea as well as veterinary pathogens. The Centre also aims to enhance the teaching of vaccine research skills spread across the School’s post-graduate training programmes and in the short course for the Epidemiological Evaluation of Vaccines run each July.

The Centre for Health Economics in London

The Centre for Health Economics in London (CHIL) is a world-leading group of over 50 academics working on a diverse portfolio of health economics research. Work ranges from developing innovative methods and empirical research to policy engagement and impact. CHIL works across the globe in low-, middle-, and high-income settings. Members have strong national and international partnerships and a wealth of experience in advising UK and other national governments, international agencies, and organisations.

Public Health England (PHE)

Public Health England (PHE) is a world leading scientific organisation with a mission to improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, reduce inequalities and protect the public’s health. It works to achieve this through world leading science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. It is an executive agency of the Department of Health & Social Care whose remit it is to put public health policy into action. Its 5,500 strong workforce provides Government, local authorities, the NHS, Parliament, industry and the public with evidence-based, public health delivery expertise and support.

Career development opportunities

Students completing an HPRU PhD will be trained for a career in either academia or public health, or indeed spanning both. At LSHTM, support for research students’ future career development is covered through the supervision process, through the Transferable Skills Programme (in the School and the Bloomsbury Postgraduate Skills Network) and the LSHTM’s Careers Service. They will also spend time at PHE observing and participating in research to address practical day-to-day delivery of public health. They will have unprecedented opportunities to network and establish professional contacts through formal and informal interactions with members of staff at LSHTM and PHE and other students.  Activities include an extensive range of seminars and workshops.  The PhD programme also facilitates national and international conference attendance by students which provides networking opportunities.

Financial support

The award includes payment of fees and a tax-free stipend of GBP 18,000.00 for three and a half years (2020/21 rate still to be confirmed). The award is only available to those who are eligible for Home/EU fees. Further information about fee status assessment can be found on the UKCISA website.

Eligibility criteria

  • Relevant undergraduate and masters degrees, both awarded at a high grade. Applicants with a very strong undergraduate degree and relevant experience will be exceptionally considered.
  • Demonstrable attention to detail.
  • The ability to work to deadlines.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • An interest in applied health protection research in the UK.

Each research project also has specific eligibility – please see the specific project information for further details.


Project 1:  Using modelling to understand infectious disease outbreaks and their impact on healthcare capacity 


Using modelling to understand infectious disease outbreaks and their impact on healthcare capacity

Supervisory team


Infectious disease outbreaks cause substantial burden in communities and healthcare settings. This research project will elucidate key drivers of outbreak spread and healthcare demand surges, integrating these insights into forecasting and modelling/evaluation of mitigation approaches. It will strengthen the UK's capacity to respond to an outbreak of a novel pathogen like a flu pandemic or coronavirus outbreak, as well as seasonal outbreaks of viruses like norovirus and influenza. The successful applicant will be part of the Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health at LSHTM as well as the Modelling and Economics Unit at PHE. The applicant will also join the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at LSHTM. The training programme will develop research skills in Bayesian evidence synthesis, statistical inference, real-time analysis of complex datasets and scientific programming.

The principal supervisor will be Dr. Sebastian Funk, Associate Professor in Infectious Disease Modelling. Dr. Funk is a leading researcher in the emergence, evolution and spread of infectious diseases, with a particular interest in the dynamic interaction of diseases with behavioural, societal and environmental factors, as well as strategies for disease eradication. The student will also be advised by Edwin van Leeuwen from PHE and Anne Cori from Imperial College London.

Specific eligibility criteria (in addition to general eligibility criteria above)

Masters degree (or equivalent training) in a quantitative subject, preferably epidemiology, statistics or mathematics Strong interest in infectious disease modelling Ability to program in R or C/C++, or strong desire to learn.

Project 2: Viruses and at-risk populations – the epidemiology and dynamics of gastrointestinal pathogens in groups with chronic disease.


Viruses and at-risk populations – the epidemiology and dynamics of gastrointestinal pathogens in groups with chronic disease

Supervisory team


Gastrointestinal viruses can be very dangerous for people with pre-existing conditions, especially chronic renal conditions. Understanding how the changing circulation of pathogens in the general population impacts the timing of risk of disease in these groups is needed, so that we can design interventions to prevent their spread.

This research project will develop dynamic transmission models for gastrointestinal viruses such as norovirus and rotavirus, and use electronic health records to detect hospitalisation events in groups with chronic renal disease. We will use these to quantify the links between the timing of events, the circulation of viruses, and other factors (such as climate) on the risk of hospitalisations.

The research project also seeks to quantify the health and economic impact of gastrointestinal viruses on populations with chronic disease. Using the model and the health and economic quantification, we will then estimate the cost-effectiveness of healthcare interventions such as vaccination to mitigate the burden and control the transmission of gastrointestinal infections.

This project will train the student in epidemiology, mathematical modelling of infectious disease, Bayesian parameter inference, health economics, and skills in big data use and management. They will build skills in scientific writing, as well as critical reading of the literature. The student will also learn to give clear scientific presentations communicating their work.

The successful applicant will be part of the Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health at LSHTM as well as the Modelling and Economics Unit at PHE. The applicant will join the vibrant Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at LSHTM which has a focused early-career researcher seminar and team-learning series. The student will also join the Electronic Health Records group at LSHTM. The student will also benefit from interacting with other national experts e.g. through the HPRU in Gastrointestinal Infections.

The principal supervisors will be Dr Rosalind Eggo, Assistant Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling, and Dr Laurie Tomlinson, Associate Professor of Renal Epidemiology. Dr Eggo is a leading researcher in modelling of directly-transmitted pathogens, and in the study of infectious-chronic comorbidity. Dr Tomlinson is a clinical specialist in electronic health records analysis, especially of renal conditions. The student will also benefit from supervision from Dr Frank Sandmann at Public Health England, a specialist in health economics and modelling gastrointestinal infections. A further co-supervisor at Imperial College will also be involved.

Specific eligibility criteria (in addition to general eligibility criteria above)

MSc (or equivalent training) in a quantitative subject, ideally with some experience of dynamic transmission models Experience or enthusiasm for learning to code in R and/or other languages

How to apply

Candidates are encouraged to contact the lead supervisor of the project(s) they are interested in before applying.

Applicants should then select one project from the potential project list and provide the following supporting documents:

  • A two page curriculum vitae, including details of their academic achievements to date and the names of two referees (at least one of whom should be able to comment on your academic ability)
  • A research proposal of up to 1,000 words*
  • A covering letter saying why they are interested in undertaking a PhD in this area at LSHTM
  • Copies of the transcripts from their undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications
  • An eligibility form

*The research proposal should identify a specific research question or hypothesis, expanding on one of the topics listed on the website, summarise the relevant background information (with no more than five key references) and should outline an appropriate research methodology by which the question can be addressed.

Applications should be submitted by email to Please state clearly in the heading and text of the email that this is an application for an HPRU studentship, please include the title of the project you are applying for. 

Only applications in the correct format will be considered.

The deadline for applications is 10.00am BST on 14 April 2020.