PhD Fellowship on climate change, community vulnerability and exposure to dengue fever in South East Asia – Entomology/Epidemiology

The PhD fellowship will be attached to the research group of the DENCLIM project funded by the Research Council of Norway.

This is an international project with partners from Thailand, Norway, Sweden, France, and the United States.

The DENCLIM Research project

Climate change is an important global health concern. It affects human health directly, for example, through higher temperature or flooding. It may also affect health indirectly through impacts on water quality and quantity, social infrastructure, or through secondary organisms, such as disease vectors. A vector is an organism that transfers an infectious agent causing disease. Dengue, Zika and chikungunya are viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. Dengue is the most widespread arboviral disease in the world. It is not easy to assess the potential health impacts of climate change and climate variability. This requires knowledge on how vectors and infectious agents are affected, but also on the vulnerability of human populations and their capacity to  respond to new conditions. In Southeast Asia, frequent dengue outbreaks occur with varying severity. The vulnerability and adaptive capacity differ between countries. Few comprehensive mathematical models include climate-induced vulnerability, vector ecology, and socio-economic conditions, with disease dynamics and their impact on dengue incidence. Dengue is often mapped on a global scale, but its distribution is generally driven by local patterns influenced by fine-scale, socio-economic, environmental, virological, and demographic factors.

In this project, urban and rural study sites will be selected on both sides of the Mekong River, which forms the international border between Laos and Thailand. Data on dengue cases, mosquito infestation, meteorology, land cover, socioeconomics, knowledge, attitudes and practices will be combined with future climatic scenarios and population growth trends to predict potential changes in dengue risk factors and community vulnerabilities. Project outputs will be new knowledge about climate-induced vulnerability and its impact on dengue transmission. This is important for developing adaptation strategies at local and regional levels. These results may also be applicable to Zika and chikungunya.

The long-term goal of the project is to contribute to improved health and welfare of people in Laos and Thailand by development of new knowledge and methodologies about potential effects of climate change and climate variability on dengue.

The specific project objectives are to

  1. Identify and quantify populations at risk of dengue in study areas of Laos and Thailand by comparative vulnerability mapping.
  2. Determine socio-economic and environmental risk factors of dengue.
  3. Assess the strength of the relationships between entomological indices and variation in dengue incidence.
  4. Determine potential associations between climate-caused changes in seasonality and dengue incidence.
  5. Identify areas of elevated dengue risk due to climate change based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Representative Concentration Pathway emission scenarios RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP6, and RCP8.5.

The project partners are Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Khon Kaen University (KKU), Thailand; Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand; University of Health Sciences, Laos; Baldwin Wallace University, USA; Institut Pasteur, France; and Umeå University, Sweden.

More information can be found here

In English:https://www.nmbu.no/en/faculty/realtek/news/node/33822.

In Norwegian:https://www.nmbu.no/aktuelt/node/33813.

Main tasks

The PhD fellowship is to be integrated within the DENCLIM project with Dr. Hans J. Overgaard as the main supervisor, Prof. Dr. Yupa Hanboonsong of the Department of Entomology, KKU, and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ubydul Haque of Baldwin Wallace University, US. The student is expected to participate actively in the academic activities of the scientific group (the project partners). There will be extensive periods of field- and laboratory work at collaborating institutes in Thailand and Laos. The candidate will work closely with another DENCLIM PhD fellow (on climate change modelling) based at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand, as well as with project partners at Khon Kaen University in Northeastern Thailand, University of Health Sciences in Vientiane, Laos, and provincial governmental health offices.

Academic qualifications

Required skills:

  • Applicants must hold a well-documented MSc degree in Entomology/ Epidemiology/ Public Health or Statistics/ Biostatistics.
  • Candidates with knowledge in both entomology/epidemiology/public health and modeling/statistics will be preferred.

Desired skills:

  • Strong analytical skills, work with large and complex datasets.
  • Data analysis using R.
  • Carry out extensive field work in urban and rural areas in Thailand and Laos.
  • International experience.
  • Research and/or working experience in developing countries will be considered an additional qualification.
  • Knowledge of molecular techniques, such as DNA and RNA extraction, PCR, and q-PCR methods.

Personal skills

  • Ability to work and collaborate in a multidisciplinary research field.
  • Ability for independent work displaying creativity and reflective thinking.
  • Analytical and academic approach to research questions.
  • Ability to create a welcoming and productive working environment for colleagues and field staff.
  • Proficiency in English as a working language is a prerequisite and should be well- documented.
  • Knowledge of Thai and/or Lao languages is an additional asset.

Evaluation criteria

The main criteria for evaluating the applicants include academic records, scientific capacity and achievements along the above outlined preferences; particularly, originality, independence, and productivity in terms of peer-reviewed publications, as well as ability to work in a team.

The shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview as a part of the evaluation.

Employment conditions

  • This is a full time non-permanent position for a period of 4 years.
  • The Fellowship covers a stipend of a minimum of THB 20,000 per month.
  • Periods of stays in Thailand and Laos for urban and rural fieldwork and collaboration with project partners is expected to be > 6 months per year.
  • The selected candidate is expected to take up the position as soon as possible and complete the PhD dissertation within four years.
  • Additional funding for field trips, conferences is ensured.
  • Possibilities for training and course work at partner universities in Norway, the US and Sweden.
  • Presentations of research work at international conferences required.

Further information

For additional information, please contact Dr. Overgaard (hans.overgaard@nmbu.no) or Dr. Yupa Hanboonsong (yupa_han@kku.ac.th), or Dr. Ubydul Haque (ubydul.kth@gmail.com).

Application

The application should be submitted by email to Hans Overgaard, (hans.overgaard@nmbu.no) by 30 April 2018. The application must include:

  • Motivation letter, max. 2 pages
  • CV (max 2 pages) including a list of publications (if any),
  • Summary of last degree thesis (1 page),
  • Names and contact details of 3 referees (but no letters),
  • Certified copies of relevant transcripts.

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