PhD Student

Last application date
Jul 16, 2021 00:00
DI12 - Department of Large Animal Internal Medicine
Limited duration
The preferred candidate should have a Master degree in bio-engineering, veterinary medicine, epidemiology, animal sciences or data sciences.
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

On July 1st 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 students and several postdoctoral researchers will be hired by the partner organizations 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; and (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 (i) identify the stakeholder needs; (ii) determine the burden of disease and costs of control measures; (iii) develop data sharing frameworks based on federated data access and meta-information sharing; (iv) build multivariate and multi-level models for creating an early warning system. Together, all of this will form 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.

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 students that are keen to work 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 (ETHZ, CH) and build multivariate and multi-level models for creating an early warning system (UCPH, DK). For all four positions, candidates should be team players that are able to collaborate interdisciplinary and have very good spoken and written ability in English.

Below is the description of the fourth PhD project and of the requirements for a suitable candidate for this project.

PhD 4. Developing decision support tools to be integrated in existing farm management systems for cattle farms across Europe (UGent)

The main objective of this PhD project is to develop decision support tools for implementation in cattle production. More specifically, the objectives are:

  • Surveying data sources to identify which available data is most valuable in developing monitoring models and decision support tools, and help define ontologies and the methods and requirements for data access (in close collaboration with PhD1).
  • Identify potential end-users and stakeholders to determine their needs, willingness and associated expectations for the data-driven decision support tools 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 dairy, veal and beef calves to providing herd specific and helpful data-driven advice for farmers and vets to choose an accurate measure (do nothing, vaccinate, medicate, take hygienic measures, etc.).
  • Integrate the ranking of the burden of disease (in close collaboration with PhD2) 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. Lely, GD).
  • The project involves both modelling for bovine respiratory disease and (neonatal) calf diarrhoea, adapted to the main production systems in the EU: dairy, beef and veal.
  • Determine the drivers and barriers for the use of the tools and improve where possible.

Job profile

  • The candidate has experience and affinity with cattle production systems and
  • The candidate has experience with or is able to learn (statistical) programming and/or coding, in particular for predictive modelling purposes
  • Proficiency in English, both written and oral is required.
  • Good communication skills are essential for this interdisciplinary and international collaboration project.
  • The candidate can work both on her/his own, but also enjoys interaction with an interdisciplinary team and international colleagues

The student will hold a PhD position at Ghent University in strong collaboration with Utrecht University. More information about this position can be obtained from Prof. Dr. Bart Pardon ( offers an overview of the project and of the 4 PhD profiles.

How to apply

Please submit your application by email to Bart Pardon ( before 17 July 2021.

Applications must be submitted in English and should include a copy of your CV, your academic transcripts and a separate motivation letter (max. 1 page) describing your research interests, skills and motivation to apply for the position.

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

From the submitted applications, a shortlist of candidates will be selected and will be invited for an interview. The interviews of the candidates from the shortlist will take place in July/August.