Dr. Alexander Mastin

School of Science, Engineering and Environment

Photo of Dr. Alexander Mastin

Contact Details

Peel Building Room 115

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Current positions

Research Fellow in Ecological/Epidemiological Simulation Modelling

Biography

I originally studied veterinary science at the University of Liverpool, taking one year out to complete a Wellcome Trust-funded intercalated degree in veterinary pathology at the Royal Veterinary College. This piqued my interest in a research career, but following graduation in 2005, I decided to give veterinary medicine a chance and joined a small animal veterinary practice in south Manchester. Although I learned a lot over the two years I spent in clinical practice, this experience convinced me that research was for me. I applied to study veterinary epidemiology on a master’s degree course run jointly by the Royal Veterinary College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and was granted a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council scholarship to study on this course.

Following this, I remained at the Royal Veterinary College, working as a research assistant to Professor Dirk Pfeiffer. During this time, my work was largely focussed on animal viruses which have the potential to infect people (such as influenza viruses), and on the effects of biosecurity practices on reducing disease in cattle farms. As well as gaining experience in veterinary epidemiology, my time being mentored by Professor Pfeiffer instilled in me a sense of the importance of working across different research fields. Inspired by this (and driven by a longstanding fascination with tapeworms), I moved to the University of Salford to study for a PhD in parasite ecology with Professor Philip Craig – one of the foremost global authorities on Echinococcus tapeworms.

These tapeworms are zoonotic (i.e. they can spread from their normal animal hosts, such as dogs, to humans), and my PhD investigated how best to monitor and evaluate echinococcosis control schemes in China and the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan using diagnostic tests developed here at the University of Salford. Following on from the completion of my PhD, I was given the opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to bridging research disciplines when I made the transition into botanical epidemiology, and I began work as a postdoctoral research fellow under Dr Stephen Parnell. My research since then has been focussed on improving early detection surveillance methods for invasive plant pathogens, which are an increasing problem worldwide

Areas of research

Epidemiology, Surveillance, Simulation Modelling, Mathematical Biology, Infectious Diseases

Teaching

I currently teach statistics and simulation modelling to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and am always happy to offer informal statistical and modelling assistance to students and researchers.

Research Interests

I am interested in the use of statistical and mathematical tools to better understand epidemiological and ecological processes, with a particular view towards applying these to improve surveillance of both invasive pathogens/pests and endemic pathogens/parasites. During my PhD, I developed approaches for improving the amount of information which could be obtained from simple diagnostic tests in order to better estimate the level of infection of dogs with Echinococcus tapeworms in endemic areas. This is of particular importance for assessing the risk of human infection and for evaluating the effect of control schemes, and could also assist in the development and parameterisation of mathematical models of transmission, which I also worked on during my PhD.

My current work focusses on the issue of pathogen spread into new areas, which is an increasingly common problem due to global trade and travel, climate change, and land management issues (such as urbanisation and agricultural intensification). I am investigating how to best apply different diagnostic tests and surveillance approaches in order to maximise the probability of detecting these invasive pathogens at an early stage (at which point control measures to remove them may still be effective).

This requires the use of mathematical approaches to both better understand initial pathogen spread, and to simulate surveillance approaches in order to detect invasion early on. I am particularly interested in vector-borne pathogens, including Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (associated with citrus greening) and Xylella fastidiosa (associated with citrus variegated chlorosis and olive quick decline syndrome), and am currently working on improving surveillance for Xylella fastidiosa in Europe.

Qualifications and Memberships

Qualifications

  • PhD in Parasite Ecology/Epidemiology, University of Salford (2015)
  • MSc, Veterinary Epidemiology, Royal Veterinary College (2009)
  • BVSc, University of Liverpool (2005)
  • BSc(hons) Veterinary Pathology, Royal Veterinary College (2003)

Memberships

  • Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (2005-)
  • Member of the John Snow Society (2008-)
  • Member of the Luxuriant Facial Hair Club for Scientists (2011-)