Dr Ellen Brooks-Pollock


Ellen Brooks Pollock

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Job title: Lecturer
Division: School of Social and Community Medicine
Organisation: University of Bristol
Tags: Fellowship: Postdoctoral Fellowship, Fellowship: Previous Fellow, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge
Related theme: Mathematical sciences


I graduated from University College London with a first in Mathematics, followed by a PhD with Matt Keeling at the University of Warwick. After two postdoctoral positions at Harvard and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, I took up my fellowship at the University of Cambridge.

My Fellowship

Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading single cause of death in humans due to an infectious agent. Active disease can produce a persistent cough, fever, weight loss and, if untreated, death in approximately 50% of cases.

TB is characterised by long-term asymptomatic infection that can progress to active disease years or decades after exposure, with progression rates highly dependent on age of infection. This means that an ageing population is very different, in terms of TB, than a population with high birth rates. The effect of changing demography on TB spread has not been investigated in TB epidemiology, and so predictions about how to control the disease are not as accurate as they could be.

This project will develop a framework to understand the transmission dynamics and evolution of chronic diseases, with a particular focus on TB. I will be looking at both TB in humans and bovine TB in cattle. While much less is understood about the natural history of disease in cattle, many of the principles involved in understanding TB spread apply to both humans and cattle.

Motivation to Apply

This fellowship provides a great opportunity to work on my own ideas and pursue work I think is important. With the fellowship I was able to combine two areas of research (human and bovine TB) that are not often studied together and that I would not have been able to combine with a traditional postdoctorate. During my postdoctorate, I came across areas of research which I was particularly interested in, and thought were important. These areas were a departure from my supervisor's work, so I applied for a fellowship in order to pursue them further.

Career benefit of Fellowship

The fellowship allowed me to dedicate myself to a substantial piece of work - which can be a risky business if you're on a short term postdoctoral contract. Having the fellowship has meant that I could manage my own research, establish collaborations, and generally work as an independent scientist - brilliant!

Advice for future applicants

For people applying for fellowships in interdisciplinary work, make sure it's clear how the work fits into the EPSRC remit. I think the EPSRC has a good history of supporting important interdisciplinary work, but it's a good idea to explain the theoretical and mathematical novelty as well as the application.