PhD Call for Applications at VinUni and University of Illinois on Envisioning Urban Environments Resilient to Vector-Borne Diseases: A One Health Approach to Dengue Management


PhD Call for Applications at VinUni and University of Illinois

Envisioning Urban Environments Resilient to Vector-Borne Diseases: A One Health Approach to Dengue Management

Open date: 01/06/2023Closing date: 31/12/2023


Vector-borne diseases pose a public health threat across the globe. Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, which are all transmitted by Ae. aegypti, are increasingly prevalent in southeast Asia, and outbreaks of Dengue, Zika, and other arboviruses are becoming more common in the southern and southeastern U.S. We propose a project funded by VinUni-Illinois Smart Health Center to provide a breakthrough in conceptualizing built urban environments in a new way to safeguard against the growing climate change-driven threat of vector-borne diseases. We are recruiting PhD students and postdoctoral researchers for the following two aims. Aim 1: we will develop a comprehensive modeling framework to predict the risk of Dengue infection in Vietnam. We envisage that this project will pioneer a new way of approaching smart health by developing preventive and predictive approaches for urban planning and learning continually using data from Vietnam’s rapidly expanding urban development (VinHomes providing prime examples of this in locations across the country). The proposed framework for smart health will deploy computational approaches, including both process-based numerical simulation and ML/AI (Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence), to develop long-term design strategies through adaptive learning from environmental surveillance and epidemiological data in (available from VinMec and the Ministry of Health) for model validation. Aim 2: we will create digital twins of the urban environment, which receive sensor data for factors influencing Dengue transmission, such as temperature, humidity, and CO2 concentration. Our model will predict infection risk level in real-time and make corresponding public health recommendations for risk reduction. We believe this project will have an immediate and significant impact on future planning of Vietnam’s rapidly increasing urbanization in line with its fast rate of economic growth. Moreover, the outcomes will have broad applicability in tropical and subtropical zones across the world where Dengue is prevalent. At present, approaching half of the world population lives in these regions, so are potentially at risk from infection.. More information is available here: VinUni-Illinois Smart Health Center .

Training program

As a Ph.D. student, you will undertake training courses that will lead towards a Ph.D. and allow you to gain various skills and expertise to strongly support your future career, whether in industry or academia. Students will be supported in publishing their research and encouraged to present it at international conferences. The students will be advised by professors at Illinois and VinUni from the following team: Illinois: Praveen Kumar, Helen Nguyen, Jinhui Yan , Lei Zhao , AND Brian Allan . VinUni: Andrew Taylor-Robinson, Doan Mai Phuong , Khoa Doan, and Le Duy Dung.


This project is suitable for students (Vietnamese only) with a Bachelor’s degree in biology, engineering, public health or a related field. Academic excellence should be demonstrated, i.e. GPA of 3.2 or above. A Master’s degree and/or experience in one of the following fields: biology, numerical methods and simulations, or AI/ML methods are desirable but not essential. Applicants should have a strong interest in biology, public health, entomology, computational and/or machine learning knowledge. Excellent skills in one of the following: field research, programming (Python), molecular biology, numerical methods, simulations, and design thinking is desirable. The key requirements are an interest in the topic and a good work ethic. English language requirements: IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent).


Selected candidates will work towards their PhD degree granted by either VinUniversity (VinUni) or University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and be co-advised by faculty from both universities. During their PhD studies, VISHC PhD students will spend 2 years to study and research at the other university and can optionally seek a master’s degree from that university. This program will cover all tuition fees, living expenses, health insurance, round-trip airfare, and related expenses for VISHC PhD students. The financial support for VISHC PhD students while they are at UIUC is provided by the Vingroup Scholarship Program for Overseas Study for Master’s and Doctoral Degrees. VISHC PhD students will receive a stipend of 10,000 USD/year when they study at VinUni and 25,000 USD/year when they study at UIUC.

How to apply

To arrange an informal discussion, please email VinUni-Illinois Smart Health Center ( and copy Prof. Helen Nguyen ( You must include your CV, a research summary, and the names of two academic referees who can provide a letter of recommendation on your behalf.