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Personal profile

Current Research Interests

The Doeschl-Wilson group investigates how the genetics of individuals affects the spread of infectious disease, both within an animal and between animals. We are an interdisciplinary group of scientists aiming to effectively combine field and laboratory experiments with mathematical modelling and quantitative genetics theory, with the ultimate aim to improve livestock health and resilience.   

Research Interests

Research in the Doeschl-Wilson group focuses on the development of mathematical models and computational tools that enhance our understanding how the genetics of individuals and diverse non-genetic factors together influence the dynamics of infectious diseases and their impact on the health and performance of individuals and of entire livestock populations. We use these tools to

  • DESIGN infection experiments and sampling strategies that let us detect the genetic signal from disease and performance data.
  • IDENTIFY individuals or genomic regions associated with high genetic resistance or tolerance to infections, or high genetic risk for transmitting infections (infectivity).
  • PREDICT the impact of genetic and non-genetic control strategies on future disease prevalence and pathogen evolution.

We use a wide range of modelling techniques that combine methods from mathematical dynamical systems theory, Bayesian statistics, and quantitative genetics.

Applications include virus infections in pigs (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, PRRS) and chicken (Marek’s disease), gastro-intestinal parasite infections in sheep, bacterial infections in cattle (bovine Tuberculosis), to virus and protozoa infections in fish.   We also apply mathematical tools to study genetic effects and group dynamics underlying aggressive behaviour in pigs.

Questions we are particularly interested in:

  • Should we aim for genetic improvement in host resistance or tolerance to infectious disease?
  • Are there disease superspreaders in the population and to what extent is superspreading genetically determined?
  • Can we identify individuals with high genetic risk for becoming infected or spreading infections a priori, based on their genetic make-up?
  • To what extent does vaccination with partially protective vaccines reduce disease transmission and pathogen evolution?
  • How can selective breeding help to control infectious disease and minimise its impact on livestock production?

We collaborate with researchers and industry partners in the UK, across Europe, USA and Canada, Australia and Africa. 

Teaching

2016:                 Lecturer of the summer school in ‘Mathematical modelling of infection dynamics’, Iowa State University, May 2016

2015-now:         Lecturer of the Disease Genetics module of the Quantitative Genetics and Genome analysis MSc course, University of Edinburgh

2012 – now:      Lecturer of the ‘Mathematical modelling’ module of The University of Edinburgh MSc in Animal Bioscience programme

Administrative Roles

  • 2012-present: Co-convener of the Institute Strategic Programme (ISP) 1: analysis and prediction in complex animal systems
  • 2016. Member of the Scientific Organizing Committee of the Wellcome Trust Animal Disease Genetics Conference (September 2017, UK).
  • 2016 – present. Associate editor of Genetics, Selection & Evolution
  • 2015. Member of the international evaluation committee for the Agence Nationale de la Reserche (ANR) work programme 2015 – challenge 5, France
  • 2014-present. Member of the international advisory committee for the MIHMES project (ANR-10-BINF-07) France.
  • 2013, 2015. Member of the expert advisory committee for appointment of senior lecturer at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science
  • 2014 – present. Member of the INRA (Institute Nationale Reserche Agricultural) PhD thesis committee (expert advisor for 1 PhD student)
  • 2012. Host editor for special research topic in Frontiers of Livestock Genomics: ‘should we aim for genetic improvement in host resistance or tolerance to infectious disease?’
  • 2011. Member of the scientific committee of the international PRRSV symposium, Chicago, US
  • 2012 - present: External examiner of 3 PhD theses
  • 2011–present: 15 invited talks at international symposia and workshops
  • 2010–present.  Scientific editor of Frontiers of Livestock Genomics

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Western Ontario

19982002

Mathematics (Theoretical Physics as second subject), Master in Science, Department of Mathematics, University of Regensburg, Germany

19951997

Graduate Courses in Mathematics and Physics, Department of Mathematics, University of Tasmania, Australia

19931994

Mathematics (Physics as second subject), Bachelor of Science, Department of Mathematics, University of Regensburg, Germany

19911993

External positions

Research Scientist (Genetic-epidemiological modelling), Scottish Agricultural College

20062010

Research Scientist: Development of selection and performance testing strategies, Genus (former Sygen) / PIC

20022006

Teaching assistant, Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Western Ontario

19982001

Software developer for databank management and logistics in paper factories, MAS - Mathematische Analysen und Systeme, Regensburg, Germany

19971998

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