PhD candidate using viral phylodynamics and mathematical modelling to investigate HIV-1 transmission in East Africa and Central Asia.
I'm Emma, a global health, cat, and karaoke enthusiast who enjoys travelling whenever possible. You'll find me wrapping my head around bioinformatics, phylodynamics and mathematical modelling to investigate HIV-1 transmission in different epidemic settings.
In 2018, I graduated from University College London (UCL) with a First Class Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences, where I started to tailor my work towards infectious diseases. My final-year dissertation focused on developing a novel, less time-consuming approach for screening multi-drug resistant M. tuberculosis , a laboratory-based project which embedded me in the UCL Centre for Clinical Microbiology.
By the end of my undergraduate degree I knew that I wanted to focus my career on epidemiology, global health and infectious disease control so I moved down the road to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), where in 2019 I obtained a Master of Science degree with Distinction in Control of Infectious Diseases. My MSc thesis involved two months of fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon (Amazonia ICEMR), where I investigated the effect of blood-meal source on Anopheles mosquito fitness and the transmission potential of P. vivax malaria.
In 2019, I joined the Wellcome Trust Hosts, Pathogens and Global Health 4-year PhD Programme at the University of Edinburgh. In 2020, I was awarded an MSc by Research with Distinction in light of the three independent research projects that I carried out during the first year of the programme: the first on using peptide microarrays to determine the efficacy of childhood vaccinations, the second on characterising HIV-1 infections in a rural East African population and the third on elucidating isometamidium chloride mode of action in T. congolense.
My PhD research builds upon the work I carried out during the second rotation of my MRes. As part of the Leigh Brown and Atkins research groups, I aim
to use viral phylogenetics, epidemiology and mathematical modelling to investigate the evolutionary dynamics of HIV-1 transmission networks in regional East African and Central Asian epidemics, to ultimately inform the design and evaluation of HIV prevention interventions.
In my first year, I analysed HIV-1 sequences from rural Uganda and Kenya collected during the SEARCH trial, to detect phylodynamic transmission clusters arising during the trial and understand the nature of incident HIV infections within a large-scale, universal test-and-treat trial setting. This work has now been published, and the article is available here. Currently, I am analysing HIV-1 sequences routinely collected from HIV clinics in Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country where HIV incidence is increasing yearly, to understand where new infections are emerging from and whether certain risk groups need to receive targeted interventions.
In later years I expect to apply a similar analysis to sequences from other populations, and to use modelling approaches to further investigate the impact of ART rollout and other public health interventions on HIV-1 transmission in structured populations.
School of Biological Sciences
University of Edinburgh
Charlotte Auerbach Road