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PhD Fellowship to quantify insect borne transmission of African swine fever virus

Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at University of Copenhagen is offering a PhD Fellowship in the study of mechanical transmission of African swine fever virus by insect vectors which will commence on the 1 April 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. The position is limited to three years. 
 
Information about the Department can be found at: https://ivh.ku.dk/english/. 
 
Background 
African swine fever is a threat to health and welfare of domestic swine and wild boar populations, and the recent introduction of the disease to Europe has had a tremendous economic impact on the swine production in both affected and the neighboring countries. The virus affected area in Europe steadily expands as infected wild boar move into the disease- free areas. Occasionally the infection also makes large geographical jumps when contaminated meat products are accidentally fed to wild boar populations in other countries. It is however not understood how the virus spreads from wild boars to domestic swine at high biosecurity farms. One of the potential mechanisms may be by mechanical transmission of blood sucking insects moving between an infected wild boar and a susceptible domestic swine in stables. We have recently demonstrated in our laboratory that this mechanism can be highly effective in the transmission of African swine fever (https://doi.org/10.1111/tbed.12918;https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vetmic.2018.06.010). But the practical impact of vector borne mechanical transmission from wild boar populations to domestic swine herds on farms remains unknown.  
 
Generally, the movement of blood feeding insects in and out of the domestic swine herds and between the herds is poorly quantified in Europe. Insects and especially blood feeding insects can spread pathogens both mechanically and biologically (with replication of the pathogens in the vectors). Therefore, the movements of insects between domestic swine and the surroundings are potentially a risk for the spread of not only African swine fever but also Japanese encephalitis and even MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). At present, we lack both vector transmission data and epidemiological outbreak data to quantify this risk in Europe.  
 
Project description 
The aim of the project is to describe the movement of vectors in and out of the swine herds and to quantify how these movements translate into risk of introduction of African swine fever to swine farms in Denmark and in other European countries. The project will be based on experimental and observational entomological field work in and around Danish swine herds as well as on entomological, virological and epidemiological field work on outbreak farms in Europe.  
 
The project will focus on entomological trapping of insects in the field and will simultaneously use epidemiological modelling approaches on the outbreak data. An additional specific objective of the field work in Denmark is to quantify the capacity of flying insects to carry and spread MRSA from and between the Danish swine herds. Based on the collected vector data in Denmark, the project will also use the research group’s existing R0 models for vector borne pathogens to model the transmission potential of other vector borne infections in swine e.g. Japanese encephalitis.   
 
The PhD project is part of a larger national research effort on African swine fever. In the department the project will collaborate with a parallel PhD project in simulation spread modelling of African swine fever in Denmark. An important part of the work will be done in close collaboration with virologists within the department and at State Serum Institute aiming at quantifying African swine fever virus in insects at the actual outbreak locations and throughout the transmission experiments.  
 
Principal supervisor 
Research group leader René Bødker 
 
Co-supervisors 
Post doc Lene Jung Kjær 
 
Required qualifications  
  • A relevant master’s degree (e.g. MSc in Veterinary Science, Animal Science or Biology) 
  • Interest in designing and conducting novel field experiments and in collecting field and outbreak data 
  • Flexibility and interpersonal skills allowing the candidate to conduct high quality extensive field work both in Denmark and during hectic outbreak situations abroad   
  • Interest in and talent for analysing entomological as well as epidemiological field data 
  • Interest in and willingness to be involved in interdisciplinary collaboration 
  • Creativity, high motivation and basic scientific skills are essential 
  • Good communication skills in both oral and written English 
  • Good collaborating skills are essential 

General Job description 
Your key tasks as a PhD fellow at Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (SUND) are to:

  • Manage, carry through and conclude your research projects, from experiments to the analyses of samples Actively participate in PhD courses 
  • Write scientific articles and finalize your PhD thesis 
  • Participate in international congresses 
  • Conduct a research stay at an institution abroad 
  • Teach and disseminate your research 
 
We offer                                                                 
  • A highly important research topic, aiming to understand and prevent the transmission of the most important threat to European wild boars and domestic pigs  
  • A scientific environment with highly dedicated colleagues from wide academic backgrounds  
  • An international work atmosphere with a large proportion of non-Danish co-workers  
  • A research environment that strives to make a scientific and applied difference in the health and welfare of animals.  
 
 
Key criteria for the assessment of candidates 
  • The grade point average achieved in relevant University degrees 
  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD programme  
  • Able to work independently in rural areas during outbreaks. 
  • Previous publications (if any) 
  • Relevant work experience 
  • Other professional activities 
  • Language skills 
 
The successful candidate is also required to possess good interpersonal skills. 
 
Formal requirements 
The position is available for a 3-year period for applicants holding a relevant master’s degree. 
The successful candidate will be requested to formally apply for enrolment as a PhD student at the Graduate School of Health and Medical Sciences. Employment as a PhD fellow will be conditional on successful enrolment in the PhD programme according to the rules stipulated in “Bekendtgørelse nr. 18 af 14. januar 2008 om ph.d.-graden.“ 
 
Terms of employment  
Salary and other terms and conditions of appointment are set in accordance with the Agreement between the Ministry of Finance and AC (Danish Confederation of Professional Associations) or other relevant professional organisations. Depending on seniority, the monthly salary begins around DKK 26.886,84 (approx. 3.600 EUR) plus pension. The position is covered by the Job Structure for Academic Staff at Universities (2013). 
 
Questions 
For further information about the position please contact Professor Hans Houe, email houe@sund.ku.dk.  For any administrative queries please contact Academic Officer Ragnhild Mostert, rmostert@sund.ku.dk  
 
Foreign applicants may find the following links useful: www.ism.ku.dk (International Staff Mobility) and www.workingconditions.ku.dk. 
 
General information about PhD programmes at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences is available on the Graduate School’s website: https://healthsciences.ku.dk/phd/. 
 
Application procedure 
  • The application must be submitted in English, by clicking on “Apply online” below and must include the following:  
  • Cover letter detailing your motivation and background for applying for the specific PhD project 
  • CV  
  • Diploma and detailed transcripts of records   
  • Other information for consideration, e.g. list of publications (if any), peer reviewed and other  
  • Personal recommendations  (if any) 
  • A maximum of 3 relevant scientific works which the applicant wishes to be included in the assessment (if any) 
 
The deadline for applications is 15 February 2019. Any applications received after this date or incomplete applications will not be considered. 
 
Receipt of the applications will be acknowledged, and the applicant will be kept continuously informed on the progress of the application. 
 
The further process 
Shortlist: After the expiry of the deadline for the application, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the Appointments Committee. All applicants are then immediately notified whether or not their application has been passed for assessment by an expert assessment committee. Selected applicants are notified about the composition of the committee and each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that relates to the applicant him/herself. You can read about the recruitment process at http://employment.ku.dk. 
 
Assessment: The selected applications will be assessed according to the Ministerial Order no. 242 of 13 March 2012 on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Universities and the University of Copenhagen’s guidelines 2013. The Assessment Committee makes a non-prioritized assessment of the academic qualifications and experience with respect to the mentioned area of research, techniques, skills and other requirements listed in the advertisement. 
 
Please note that the applicant will be contacted if the assessment committee requires further documentation. 
 
The University of Copenhagen wishes to reflect the diversity of society and welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background. 
 
 
 
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Info

Application deadline: 15-02-2019
Employment start: 01-04-2019
Working hours: Full time
Department/Location: IVH

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