Prize Scholar: Francesca Lovell-Read

Francesca Lovell-Read

I am a fourth year DPhil student with the Doctoral Training Partnership for Interdisciplinary Bioscience. A mathematician by training, I am based at the Mathematical Institute  where I study epidemiological modelling. 

Outbreaks of infectious diseases in human, animal and plant populations present an ongoing and increasing threat to global public health and biosecurity. Mathematical models are increasingly used in epidemiological settings to understand pathogen transmission and to guide the implementation of surveillance and control strategies.

My own research focuses on modelling transmission dynamics in the very early stages of an outbreak, using mathematical and computational techniques to design control mechanisms that facilitate early case detection and local containment. In particular, I seek to understand how limited surveillance resources can be optimally allocated within a population characterised by heterogeneities in the transmission risk between hosts.

During the first half of my DPhil I worked on estimating the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks in new locations and assessing the efficacy of non-pharmaceutical control interventions such as school closures and social distancing policies. More recently, I have been interested in designing cost-efficient monitoring programmes to facilitate the early detection of invasive pathogens in plant populations, with a focus on Xylella fastidiosa, one of the most dangerous plant pathogens worldwide. By considering case studies from both human and plant disease epidemiology, I aim to demonstrate the broad applicability of early outbreak modelling techniques in a variety of settings.

Since I arrived at Merton in 2015 to begin my undergraduate degree in Mathematics, this college has provided a wonderful environment for me to learn and grow as a researcher. I am delighted to have been awarded this Prize Scholarship, and am very grateful for the many opportunities that Merton has provided me with during my time here.