My main research interest is in the epidemiology of infectious diseases – in particular, zoonotic or emerging infectious diseases – from both animal health and human health perspectives. This interest has led me to start a PhD at SPHCM in March 2015 and I am now halfway through the second year. So far my research has been focused on avian influenza viruses (AIVs) and analysing the spatial-temporal distribution of AIVs and quantifying patterns of spread.
The analysis of patterns of disease distributions can be advanced through spatial modelling methods – these methods aim to either quantify or infer risk factors and mechanisms of disease spread. My PhD involves learning, using and exploring different spatial modelling methods to study avian influenza virus epidemiology: to identify areas at high risk, and to determine how the virus will spread across a region. I have learnt how to use ArcGIS software to visualise maps, and R for data processing and conducting statistic tests, and I am currently learning how to create models using maximum entropy and boosted regression tree algorithms.
My PhD so far has been challenging as my research is largely quantitative, however my background is mainly in animal medicine. It has been a huge learning curve for me so far and I am fortunate to be supported by a variety of academics from multiple disciplines and faculties: (i) Associate Professor Samsung Lim, who is the course convenor for all GIS courses at the engineering faculty in UNSW and is a leader in GIS technology and has substantial experience in supervising and teaching research students in GIS, (ii) Professor Archie Clements, who is a veterinarian and the director of the Research School of Population Health at Australian National University – Archie has published several spatial modelling studies, largely in human epidemiology, and has also supervised a number of PhD students, (iii) Dr Lauren Gardner, who is a lecturer in network modelling and several cross-disciplinary publications in infectious disease modelling, and (iv) Professor Raina MacIntyre who is an international leader in emerging infections, and is involved in numerous influenza studies that directly inform national and international policy with over 230 publications in peer-reviewed journals.
GIS tools and spatial modelling methods are being increasingly used by epidemiologists in both veterinary and human health and it’s exciting to be part of this new and growing research field. I enjoy being part of the infectious disease research team at SPCHM which is made up of a very supportive group of students and staff. I would highly recommend our School to students wishing to do a research degree in infectious diseases epidemiology.