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36 to 40
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Department Population Health Sciences

Job description

On 1 July 2021 a EU funded research project called DECIDE with 19 partners in 11 countries will start for a period of five years. About 9 PhD candidates and several postdoctoral Researchers will be hired by the partner organisations in the DECIDE project.

The DECIDE project will develop data-driven decision support tools, which present:
(i) robust and early signals of disease emergence and options for diagnostic confirmation;
(ii) options for controlling the disease along with their implications in terms of disease spread, economic burden and animal welfare.

DECIDE will focus on respiratory and gastro-intestinal syndromes in the three most important terrestrial livestock species (pigs, poultry, cattle) and on growth reduction and mortality in salmonids. For each of these we will identify the stakeholder needs, determine the burden of disease and costs of control measures, develop data sharing frameworks based on federated data access and meta-information sharing, and build multivariate and multi-level models for creating an early warning system. All of this together will shape the decision support tools to be integrated in existing farm management systems wherever possible and to be evaluated in several pilot implementations in farms across Europe.

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The results of DECIDE will lead to improved decisions on disease control to increase animal health and welfare and protect human health and the food chain in Europe and beyond. At Utrecht University and Ghent University we have vacancies for four PhD candidates who are keen on working on the interface of data science, veterinary science and economics in an international setting. Close collaboration is foreseen with partners in the DECIDE project that identify the stakeholder needs (Eidgen√∂ssische Technische Hochschule Z√ľrich, Switzerland) and build multivariate and multi-level models for creating an early warning system (K√łbenhavns Universitet, Denamark). For all four positions, candidates should be team players, able to collaborate interdisciplinary and have excellent communication skills in English, both in writing and speech.

Underneath you will find the descriptions of the two Utrecht University PhD projects and the requirements for suitable candidates. For the two PhD positions at Ghent University  external linkwe refer to the Ghent website  external link.


PhD 1. Determining the burden of disease and costs of control measures.
The main objective of this PhD project is to determine the economic and welfare burden of prevalent contagious production diseases and ensure prioritisation of control measures for reduction of further spread, cost effectiveness and increased welfare. More specifically, its objectives are:

  • to calculate the animals’ biomass and their economic value and the health loss envelope in order to understand the burden of disease;
  • to determine loss and expenditure frontiers of the causes and risk factors of diseases in order to assess current levels of allocation and identify additional costs and benefits of interventions;
  • to assess the relationship between health, diseases and welfare;
  • to calculate the costs and benefits of interventions.

The preferred candidate should have a degree in a quantitative field, such as animal health economics, veterinary epidemiology, genetics, and quantitative biology. Preferably the candidate has a background, but at least an interest, in livestock production. Proficiency in English, both written and oral is required. Good communication skills are essential for this interdisciplinary and international collaboration project. More information about this position can be obtained from Dr. ir. Wilma Steeneveld  external link.

PhD 2. Developing decision support tools to be integrated in existing farm management systems for poultry farms across Europe.
The main objective of this PhD project is to develop tools to support decisions on the management of animal health for implementation in broiler production. More specifically, the objectives are:

  • surveying data sources to identify which available data are most valuable in developing monitoring models and decision support tools for infectious diseases in poultry, and help define ontologies and the methods and requirements for data access (in close collaboration with PhD1);
  • determine the needs, willingness and associated expectations for the data-driven decision support tools of potential end-users and stakeholders to help them prioritise control and preventive measures to better manage respiratory and intestinal diseases;
  • parameterise and use mechanistic disease model (INRAE, FR) and monitoring models (UCHP, DK) for broiler farms to provide flock specific data-driven advice for Farmers and Vets to choose an accurate intervention (do nothing, vaccinate, medicate, take hygienic measures, etc.);
  • integrate the ranking of the burden of disease (in close collaboration with PhD1) and control options in a prototype decision support tool that will then be implemented and tested in a first pilot implementation with the end-users through stakeholder organisations (i.e. GD);
  • determine the drivers and barriers for the use of the tools and improve them where possible.

The preferred candidate should have a MSc degree in veterinary epidemiology, veterinary medicine, animal sciences, or data sciences. The candidate has good analytical skills and experience with handling (large) datasets. Knowledge of poultry farming and experience with epidemiological methods and mechanistic disease modelling are recommended. A good command of English is a requirement. Good communication skills are essential for this interdisciplinary and international collaboration project. More information about this position can be obtained from Prof. Sjaak de Wit  external link.


We offer a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for a period of 4 years. The gross salary ranges between ‚ā¨2,395 in the first year and ‚ā¨3,061 in the fourth year (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and¬†flexible employment conditions¬†¬†external link¬†(multiple choice model). More information¬†about working at Utrecht University¬†¬†external linkcan be found here.

About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University  external link, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine  external linkhas a unique position in the Netherlands. Not only is this the only institution where Veterinarians are trained, but is is also where Researchers are working together on innovative scientific research. In addition, the faculty provides specialist clinical care in the largest academic veterinary hospital in Europe. Thanks to this position, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is a point of contact for all veterinary matters, both nationally and increasingly internationally. The faculty employs approximately 900 Veterinarians, Scientists and support staff and counts 1,500 students.

Additional information

For more information, please contact Prof. Sjaak de Wit  external linkvia  external linkor Dr. ir. Wilma Steeneveld  external linkvia  external link Please do not send your application letter to these e-mail addresses.


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the button below.

Due to the coronavirus interviews will be conducted by video calling.

The application deadline is 5 July 2021.

For more information please open this link

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