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PhD Scholarship to Model The Occurrence of Pathogenic Viruses in Lake Geneva and The Associated Public Health Risks

Applicants are invited to apply for a PhD position in environmental sciences at EPFL, Switzerland. Applicants should apply as soon as possible.

The Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry (LCE) in the Environmental Engineering Institute, EPFL, is seeking a

PhD student to model the occurrence of pathogenic viruses in Lake Geneva and the associated public health risks

Our group is interested in waterborne viruses, which threaten public health with a range of diseases from diarrhea to hepatitis and meningitis. Viruses enter natural water bodies via the discharge of wastewater. Compared to other pathogens, human enteric viruses (e.g., norovirus or enterovirus) can exhibit a prolonged stability in the environment and considerable resistance to disinfection. These traits facilitate their transmission through the environment to new hosts. However, we currently only have limited information on the concentration, distribution and frequency of occurrence of pathogenic viruses in natural water bodies, their environmental persistence, and the risk they ultimately pose to humans.

The objective of this project is to quantify the public health risks associated with viruses in a wastewater-impacted water body. We will use Lake Geneva as a case study as it is a highly relevant body of water in Switzerland. It is used as a source of drinking water for 800,000 people, and it is heavily used for recreational activities. Furthermore, a calibrated hydrodynamic model (www.meteolakes.com) is available through EPFL's Physics of Aquatic Systems Laboratory (https://aphys.epfl.ch/). We will collaborate with this group (Prof. A. West) to couple virus input and persistence data with the meteolakes hydrodynamic model. We will also work with the Pathogens and Human Health Group at Eawag (Dr. T. Julian; https://www.eawag.ch/en/department/umik/main-focus/pathogens-and-human-health/) to couple the resulting pathogen-hydrodynamic model to a microbial risk assessment. Finally, we will use the combined model to evaluate potential health risks for recreational water use on the beaches of Lake Geneva's shores under different scenarios of global change.

We are looking for highly motivated candidates with a Master's degree in environmental sciences or engineering or a related field. This project requires computation skills, an understanding of environmental processes, and the willingness to conduct field and experimental virology work to validate the model predictions. The group language is English, therefore a good command of both spoken and written English is essential.

The position will start as soon as possible. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. PhD applicants must be accepted by the EPFL Doctoral School in order to pursue a PhD. For more information, please see http://phd.epfl.ch/edce .

For further information about this lab and project, consult lce.epfl.ch or contact Prof. Tamar Kohn. For additional information about obtaining a PhD at EPFL, please consult http://phd.epfl.ch/prospective.

To apply, please send the following documents to karine. maritz@epfl.


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