IDReC Alumni

Ben Phiri

Ben completed his doctoral studies in Molecular Epidemiology in 2015. His PhD was entitield "Estimating the public health risk associated with drinking water in New Zealand."

His supervisor's were Nigel French and Patrick Biggs (mEpiLab), Mark Stevenson (EpiCentre) and Paul Rainey (Institute of Natural Sciences).

Ben's research was funded by AWC and involves the use of metagenomics to investigate the quality of drinking water on campgrounds operated by the Department of Conservation. Other aspects of his doctoral studies include the application of mathematical modelling to investigate the effect of river flow on reported cases of enteritis in drink water zones throughout New Zealand.


Patricia Jaros

Patricia completed her doctoral studies in 2014.

Her PhD research has focused on the molecular epidemiology of an important human pathogen known as STEC O157 (Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7).  Having been awarded a postdoctoral fellowship funded by the Allan Wilson Centre, Patricia continues her research on STEC O157 in a postdoctoral position within the group.

Patricia’s postdoctoral project aims to find out more about the STEC O157 strains present in New Zealand, using genomic-level analyses of more than 100 isolates originating from cattle and humans.  Her project addresses questions such as where in the world STEC O157 are likely to have come from to New Zealand, and when; and whether cattle, or another cryptic host, are the most important source of human STEC infections in New Zealand.


 Zoe Grange

Zoe Patricia completed her doctoral studies in 2014.

Zoe was funded by the Allan Wilson Centre to study the role of translocation and avian populations in the transmission of common pathogens and commensals in island ecosystems. She has a range of supervisors from different disciplines at Massey and Victoria Universities: Brett Gartrell (Wildbase, IVABS), Nigel French (mEpiLab, IVABS), Laryssa Howe (IVABS) and Nicola Nelson (Victoria University).

Zoe was investigating the effects that translocation of TakahÄ (endangered flightless birds) between reserves has had on the biogeographical spread of common pathogens and commensal organisms. Zoe was also investigating the role of reservoir species in island ecosystems, exploring potential transmission of pathogens from existing populations to translocated individuals. You can find out more about Zoe's work in the Research Highlights.


Fang Fang

Fang Fang completed her doctoral studies in 2014. Her PhD was entitield "Leptospirosis diagnostics and exposure at the human and animal interface".

Fang Fang was supervised by Jackie Benschop and Julie Collins-Emerson (mEpiLab), Peter Wilson (IVABS), and Cord Heuer (EpiCentre). 

The focus of Fang’s research is to investigate leptospirosis at the human-animal interface in New Zealand, and attempt to understand some key questions about diagnosis and occupational risks. This work involves an evaluation of the laboratory diagnostic tests for leptospirosis, including standard/conventional tests and molecular techniques, in animals (sheep and cattle) and humans. Other aspects of this work include examining the shedding/renal colonization rates and sero-prevalence of Leptospira spp. in slaughtered animals to raise awareness of the potential risk of getting leptospirosis in meat workers.

Shoukai Yu 

Shoukai completed her doctoral studies in Statistical Genetics in 2013. Her PhD was entitield "The evolution of Campylobacter".

Shoukai was supervised by Nigel French and Patrick Biggs from mEpiLab, IDReC; Paul Fearnhead (Professor of Statistics at Lancaster University, UK) and Barbara Holland (from the Theoretical Phylogenetics Group, University of Tasmania).

Shoukai nvestigated some fundamental questions regarding how fast the bacteria evolve, the geographical isolation effect on the evolution of the bacteria, and the evolutionary mechanism of Campylobacter. The study highlighted the importance of recombination relative to mutation, and provided evidence that the geographical isolation effect on the evolution of Campylobacter exists over short time-scales, but that this effect diminishes over longer time-scales. More information on Shoukai's work is available in the Research Highlights.

Hamid Irshad

Hamid completed his doctoral studies in February 2013.His PhD thesis was entitled: "The epidemiology of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 and non-O157 STEC in bobby calves in the North Island of New Zealand." His main supervisor was Nigel French from mEpiLab. Hamid so impressed his doctoral examiners that they nominated his thesis for the Dean's List of Exceptional Doctoral Theses.

 A summary of Hamid's PhD studies:
Strains of Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) have emerged as important food borne pathogens, and cattle and sheep are important reservoirs of these bacteria. Therefore, STECs are of public health concern and they also pose a threat to international trade. Despite this, very little information is available about the epidemiology of STEC in New Zealand. Hamid's is studying the epidemiology of STEC in bobby calves in the North Island of New Zealand; the information obtained from this research will be helpful in devising national and regional control strategies for STEC in bobby calves.

Tilman Davies

Tilman completed his PhD entitled: "Spatial and Spatiotemporal Point Process Modelling in Epidemiology" in 2012, under the supervision of Professor Martin Hazelton from the Institute for Fundamental Sciences.

During his doctoral studies, Tilman studied the appraisal and refinement of certain point process methodologies with a view to improved modelling of epidemiological problems. He improved the techniques for estimating the spatial risk of infection by incorporating variable smoothing in the estimates; investigated the class of models known as ‘log-Gaussian Cox processes,' (LGCP) capable of tracking the evolution of the spatiotemporal disease intensities; and in the process helped to develop 2 R packages. More information about Tilman's work is available under the Research Highlights section of this website: Research Highilight: Tilman Davies

Tilman is now lecturing in statistics at the University of Otago.