Mathematical Modelling PhD Student Placements at UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)

PhD students can apply for a three month placement at the UK Health Security Agency. There are three roles available for PhD students with strong mathematics and statistical backgrounds for short-term placements. The UKHSA will buy out your stipend for the 3 months of the placement.

Opportunity Details


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Stipend reimbursement for 3 months, paid to your University/Research Body; travel expenses up to the value of £2,400 for the duration of the placement, on provision of approved receipts; and a development opportunity to gain experience, exposure, skills, knowledge and network.



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The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is a newly formed executive agency, sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care. The UKHSA will revolutionise UK health protection, providing intellectual, scientific and operational leadership at national and local level, as well as on the global stage. It will ensure the nation can respond quickly and at greater scale to deal with pandemics and future threats.

UKHSA will plan for the next phases of the pandemic, ensuring COVID-19 related activities are operating effectively to manage the transmission and impact of the virus. The agency will also help support wider key lessons learned from the pandemic to keep our nation safe, both now and in the future.

Science and research will be at the core of UKHSA. It will bring together world-leading public health science, cutting-edge capabilities in data analytics and genomic surveillance, and at-scale testing and contact tracing to respond appropriately to all potential health hazards.

The Agency will play a crucial role in global health security, providing public health leadership at international, national, and local levels, and working to reduce health inequalities.

Key strands of work will include:

  • developing surveillance and modelling capabilities to inform action at national and local levels to protect the country’s health
  • increasing the country’s world-leading genomic capabilities to respond rapidly to emerging threats through establishment of a New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP)
  • supporting and delivering clinical guidance and communications tailored to the needs of different populations and areas
  • providing agile testing services at scale with rapid and effective contact tracing services, working in partnership with local authorities

You will be working with a highly motivated and passionate group of people, who have come together from across the country, to work on the biggest health and economic challenge that our nation has ever faced. You will be working alongside them in an exciting and fast paced environment with an unparalleled opportunity to make your mark on government policy and the future of UK health protection.

We have all been affected by COVID-19. This is a unique opportunity to help and make a difference, working to produce the evidence to support the most effective public health action on COVID-19 and wider global health security priorities.

What is the PhD student placement scheme?

The PhD student placement scheme is part of the Early Career Researcher (ECR) programme, which aims to improve organisational capability by bringing in specialist and expert skills to UKHSA and serves to attract a pipeline of future talent and strengthen organisational links with academia. These time limited PhD student placements provide benefits for both the organisation and individual, through increased organisational capability and by providing an exciting and varied career opportunity. As well as work experience, the placement also provides a pastoral and development programme, together with opportunities for technical skills development.

What roles are available?

There are three roles available for PhD students with strong mathematics and statistical backgrounds for short-term placements from December 2021 / January 2022 until 31st March 2022. The UKHSA will buy out your stipend for the 3 months of the placement. You will be placed into a role within either the Health Analysis Directorate and Data Directorate or Data Science Directorate and provided a project on which to work for 3 months.These are multi-disciplinary analytical directorates of more than 100 individuals each, working at the forefront of the response to COVID-19.

The work of the directorates spans a range of analytical objectives and themes across descriptive epidemiology, genomics, cluster analysis, vaccines, behavioural science, infectious disease and biostatistical modelling, strategic research partnerships and innovation, environmental monitoring and health protection and wastewater and product development/delivery.

The exact duties of the post holder will be determined by the current business requirements, which can change at pace. However, previous roles have included: model development; Bayesian modelling of the pillar 4 prevalence studies; development, management, and running of the epidemiological modelling review group data pipeline; developing the deployment of epidemiological models for the generation of the R number; providing data engineering support for the epi-ensemble modelling group; and case Fatality Risk Modelling.

Supervision would be provided on a day-to-day basis by the line manager with support from other team members. You will be part of the wider ECR Programme and so will have regular catch ups with the Programme lead to discuss development goals and wellbeing.

As the work is separate from your PhD and requires security clearance to conduct (see full description), you will be unable to discuss the specifics of the work with others, including your PhD supervisor.


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