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Sarah Hill and friend

Prize Scholar: Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill is in the third year of studying for a DPhil in Genomic Medicine & Statistics:

"The rapid evolution of viral genomes can be exploited to track viruses in time and space, and assess their transmission histories. My research focuses on the application and development of techniques to determine transmission routes and risk factors using viral genomes.

"Much of my work has focused on avian influenza. I worked closely with government health agencies during the 2014-16 outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza and demonstrated that the lineage was spread by wild waterfowl. In addition, I am investigating low pathogenic forms of avian influenza and other viruses in a well-studied population of mute swans. The project is based on metagenomic sequencing techniques, allowing us to explore epidemiological dynamics of both known and previously undiscovered virus species. I am interested in how such viruses transmit through population networks, and how probability of infection changes with age and season. I enjoy the huge variety of my work, which spans computational work, laboratory experiments, and occasional field site visits.

"The techniques used in my research are applicable to many viruses, and consequently I have joined additional collaborations to respond to important emerging outbreaks: most recently including the spread of Zika virus.

"The graduate community at Merton College is lively and welcoming, and has been a highlight of my experience at Oxford. I’m extremely grateful for financial support from the Wellcome Trust, and access to Merton College grants."