COVID-19 Team Members (alfabetische volgorde)
Steven Abrams holds a bachelor degree in mathematics (2009), a master degree in statistics (Epidemiology and Public Health Methodology) (2011) and a PhD degree in statistics (2015) from Hasselt University. He has worked on modelling individual heterogeneity in the acquisition of infectious diseases using so-called frailty models. More specifically, his primary research interest is the quantification of unobserved heterogeneity in susceptibility to infection, infectiousness upon infection and social contact behavior, sources which are all relevant for the spread of infectious diseases and the control of emerging infections. Furthermore, his research interests include the statistical analysis of (serial-) serological survey data, outbreak risk assessment in highly vaccinated populations, estimation of epidemiological parameters with regard to malaria infection and the application and integration of survival data techniques in infectious disease epidemiology. Steven Abrams teaches introductory topics in statistics and mathematical modeling to bachelor students in mathematics and biomedical sciences, and to master students in biomedical sciences. He also gives statistical consultancy training to master students in statistics.
Jan Aerts received a master's degree in bioscience engineering from KU Leuven in 1998 and a PhD degree in the field of genomics (2005) from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. As a genomics-researcher and bioinformatician, he contributed to the chicken genome sequencing project, the cattle genome sequencing project and different large genomics projects in human (incl the 1000 Genomes Project) as he held different positions at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in England. He moved into the field visual analytics in 2010 when he took an assistent professorship in bioinformatics at KU Leuven, Belgium. Since the start of 2019, he is full professor at UHasselt, where he heads the new Data Science Institute.
Marc Aerts holds a master degree in mathematics (1981) and a PhD degree in statistics (1988) from Hasselt University. He published methodological and applied work on non- and semiparametric estimation (kernel estimators, splines, semi-parametric mixture models), goodness of fit (in general multivariate data models as well as censored data models), inference (bootstrap, multi-model inference), missing data models and methods, mathematical and statistical models for infectious diseases, quantitative risk assessment (chemical, microbial, toxicological), meta-analysis of diagnostic tests. Marc Aerts teaches introductory and advanced courses in the Faculty of Applied Economy, School of Information Technology, School of Transportation Sciences, and the Master of Statistics in the Faculty of Sciences. Finally, he serves as statistical consultant for the industry, academia, government and regulatory agencies.
Philippe Beutels holds Ba-Ma degrees in Commercial Engineering (1993), and a PhD in Medical Sciences (2002) from UAntwerpen. His main research interests include mathematical models of infectious diseases, social contact patterns as drivers of infectious disease transmission, the economic impact of infectious diseases, cost-effectiveness of vaccines and prioritisation of health care interventions. He started a fruitful collaboration on social contacts and mathematical models with UHasselt's Center for Statistics in 1997. He spent two years (2003-2005) as a postdoctoral researcher on infectious disease modelling and health economics at the University of Sydney and the University of Technology at Sydney (UTS), Australia. Upon returning to Belgium, he was a lead partner in the EU research project POLYMOD. In 2007-2008 he created the inter-university SIMID project (www.simid.be) and at the UAntwerp he incepted a new multidisciplinary centre, CHERMID (Center for Health Economics Research & Modeling Infectious Diseases, see https://www.uantwerpen.be/en/research-groups/chermid/ ). In a spirit of continuous stimulation between disciplines, this has led to considerable developments of methodology and policy applications. Philippe Beutels is internationally one of the most prolific and cited authors on the economics of infectious diseases. He’s been a frequent advisor for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the main senior author of the WHO guide on economic evaluation of vaccines. He led/leads workpackages on “economic evaluation” of several large European projects, is a member of Belgium’s Superior Health Council and was the first recipient of a prize for health economics research awarded by the Royal Academy in Belgium, in 2017. He’s currently Full Professor, director of CHERMID and chairperson of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute at UAntwerpen.
Pietro Coletti holds a Msc degree in physics from the university of Rome “La Sapienza” (2010) and a PhD in physics from the university of Rome “Roma Tre” (2014). His research interests lie in the area of infectious disease modeling, addressed with methodologies borrowed from complex systems analysis with standard epidemiology tools. In particular he is interested in seasonal diseases like influenza, whose complex dynamics results from the interplay between different anthropological and biological factors. In his work he studied the impact of microscopical (e.g. change of contact pattern) and macroscopical (e.g. climate) factors in shaping the spreading of inlfluenza diffusion using surveillance data. Also he used data-informed metapopulation models to further assess the impact of behavioural changes in terms of mobility and contact pattern on the epidemic diffusion and to produce quantitative predictions.
Christel Faes received the MSc degree in mathematics (2000) from the University of Antwerp and the PhD degree in biostatistics (2004) from Hasselt University. Her research interests include the statistical analysis of clustered and hierarchical data (non-Gaussian data in particular), spatially correlated data (both lattice data and geostatistical data), multivariate data of mixed types and flexible estimation methods (pseudo-likelihood, variational inference methods, INLA) with applications in risk assessment, veterinary epidemiology, health surveys, and infectious diseases. Christel Faes teaches introductory topics in statistics and mathematical modeling to bachelor students in mathematics and biology, as well as advanced topics (Bayesian methodology, spatial epidemiology, multivariate data, microbial risk assessment) to master students in statistics.
Tapiwa Ganyani obtained a bachelor degree in Statistics (2010) from the University of Zimbabwe and a master degree in statistics (2014) from UHasselt. He started a PhD in statistics at UHasselt in 2014 under the supervision of Christel Faes and Niel Hens. His main research area is epidemic modelling. He has done research on modifying bi-linear mass action when estimating epidemic parameters. He also serves as a statistical consultant at I-BioStat. In different projects, he has applied concepts of design of experiments, sample size calculation, anova, mixed models as well as multivariate methods, and, he has also developed applications using R Shiny for non-statisticians. He also serves as a teaching assistant for the Master of Statistics Distance Learning program; he is part of the teaching team for the courses Survey methods and Concepts of Bayesian Inference.
Niel Hens received a master degree in mathematics (1999) from KU Leuven and a master of science and PhD degree in biostatistics (2005) from Hasselt University. Since 2009 he is holder of the chair of evidence-based vaccinology at the University of Antwerp. He published work at the intersection between statistics and mathematical epidemiology focussing on semi-and non-parametric methods for handling missing data in his PhD work and after mainly focussing on bridging the gap between mathematical and statistical methods in infectious disease epidemiology. Next to biostatistics, Niel Hens teaches courses on computational biology and mathematical epidemiology to master of statistics and master of epidemiology students both in Antwerp and Hasselt. He is frequently consulted by federal and Flemish authorities especially for health-related topics.
Lisa Hermans received a bachelor degree in mathematics (2010) from Hasselt University, a master degree in statistics (2012) from the University of Leuven and a PhD degree in sciences: statistics (2019) from Hasselt University. After graduation in 2012, she started as a teaching assistant at Hasselt University. As a PhD student she worked under the supervision of promotor, Geert Molenberghs, and co-promotor, Marc Aerts. Her research includes the statistical analysis of clustered data, missing data and pseudo-likelihood estimation. Since October 2019, she works as a postdoctoral researcher in the team of Prof. dr. Niel Hens. The research is focused on modelling infectious diseases and the development of data sciences tools in forecasting epidemic diseases like influenza. She teaches mathematics and introductory courses in statistics to bachelor students in medicine and (behavioral) sciences.
Sereina Herzog completed her studies at three different Swiss universities: BSc in Mathematics at the University of Basel (2006), MSc in Mathematics at the University of Zurich (2009), and PhD at the University of Bern (2012). From 2013-2018 she worked as a university assistant at the Medical University of Graz (Austria) where her tasks included, besides teaching students in biostatistics, statistical analysis and planning of clinical studies in various fields of medicine. Since 2018, she works at the University of Antwerp being involved in the further development of analysis methods for infection data, e.g. serological data, using mathematical and statistical models. Her research interest focuses on how mathematical models can be implemented as early as at the planning stage of infectious disease studies.
Anna Ivanova received her master degree in mathematics (1998) from Brest State University (Belarus), a master degree in statistics (2004) from KU Leuven and a doctoral degree in biomedical science (2018) from KU Leuven. Her research interests are with the modeling of repeated, overdispersed and multivariate ordinal data and with missing data analysis using classical techniques applied to ordinal data -a less investigated data type- and more alternative techniques involving pseudo-likelihood. She has also been teaching short courses on basic statistics and practice sessions using different statistical packages (R, SAS, SPSS). She is currently teaching introductory courses on statistics at KU Leuven’s medical school as well as a statistical software course in the master of statistic programme at UHasselt. She is also a statistical consultant in repeated data analysis of Gaussian and non-Gaussian type at both universities.
Cécile Kremer received her master degree in psychology (2015) from Maastricht University. In 2017, she obtained her master degree in Statistics (Epidemiology and Public Health Methodology) at Hasselt University. She then started a PhD (2017) under the supervision of prof. dr. Niel Hens. Her research primarily focuses on transmission of HIV and HIV/HCV coinfection in high-risk populations. She also serves as a statistical consultant at CenStat.
Elise Kuylen holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy (2011) and Computer Science (2017) from the University of Antwerp. She is currently conducting a joint Phd in Computer Science (UHasselt) and Medical Science (University of Antwerp) under the supervision of prof. dr. Niel Hens, prof. em. dr. Jan Broeckhove, and prof. dr. Jori Liesenborgs. Her main focus is on the use of individual-based models to include heterogeneous behaviour (such as the clustering of unvaccinated individuals) into models for the spread of infectious diseases.
Pieter Libin holds a master in informatics (2014) and a PhD in computer science (2020) from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In his PhD research, he investigated the use of reinforcement learning to mitigate epidemics. His main research interest lies within the use of machine learning techniques in combination with epidemiological models to study prevention strategies. He has worked on different pathogens, including HIV, the hepatitis C virus, influenza, Dengue virus and Zika virus. Pieter is currently working on the EpiPose project, to model the COVID-19 pandemic with the objective to evaluate prevention strategies.
Kirsten Maertens holds a master degree in Biomedical Sciences (2012), a master degree in Epidemiology (2015) and a PhD in Medical Sciences (2017) from the University of Antwerp. Currently, she is working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for the Evaluation of Vaccination at the University of Antwerp. Her research is mainly focused on the area of maternal immunization where she is involved in several ongoing national and international clinical trials focusing on several aspects of maternal immunization; e.g. immunogenicity, safety, effect on breastmilk and coverage studies. She teaches courses on Clinical Drug Research and Vaccination in pregnancy to master students biomedical sciences and students from the LIVE master in Vaccinology. She is also member of the working group Vaccination in Pregnancy from the Superior Health Council.
Signe obtained a master’s degree in demography from the University of Southampton (2016) and a master’s degree in statistics (specialized in biostatistics) from KU Leuven (2018). She is currently a PhD student under the supervision of Prof. Niel Hens. Her research primarily focuses on the incorporation of demography in models for infectious disease transmission.
Geert Molenberghs holds a master degree in mathematics (1988) and a PhD degree in biostatistics (1993) from the University of Antwerp. He has worked on repeated measures of a Gaussian and non-Gaussian type (binary, categorical, and count data in particular), including on mixed models and semi-parametric methods such as generalized estimating equations. He has done research on missing data methodology for analysis and sensitivity analysis. He has also contributed to methods for the evaluation of surrogate endpoints in the context of clinical trials. Geert Molenberghs teaches introductory and advanced courses in such programs as medicine, oral health, statistics, and epidemiology. Jointly with Geert Verbeke, he has taught over 100 short courses worldwide on longitudinal and incomplete data, as well as surrogate endpoints. Finally, he often serves as statistical consultant for the industry, academia, government, and regulatory agencies.
Thomas Neyens is an Assistant Professor (L-BioStat, KU Leuven; CenStat, UHasselt). He holds master degrees in biology (2007, University of Antwerp) and statistics (2011, UHasselt), and a PhD degree in biostatistics (2015, UHasselt). His research expertise lies in the field of spatial data analysis, with an emphasis on preferential sampling models, disease mapping, and biodiversity analysis. He has developed methodology in the context of spatially discrete and continuous data, point processes, and sampling bias corrections. Thomas teaches statistics at graduate and undergraduate levels, and he co-leads the FLAMES (Flanders' training network for methodology and statistics) at KU Leuven. He currently leads the statistical analysis of the weekly Belgian corona study survey, which has been designed by the University of Antwerp, in collaboration with UHasselt and KU Leuven.
Oluwafemi Daniel Olusoji holds a bachelor in statistics from the University of Ibadan (2014) and a master of statistics, biostatistics option from Hasselt University (2017). He is currently conducting joint PhD research under Prof. dr. Marc Aerts and Prof. dr. Frederik De Laender (Universite de Namur). The focus of the PhD research is disentangling and understanding the relationship between trait diversity within species and environmental change.
Oana Petrof received a master degree in biostatistics (2017) from Hasselt University. She started working as a PhD student on October 1, 2017 under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Christel Faes and Dr. Thomas Neyens. She started working on extensions of the standard spatial models in the direction of spatial multilevel models in epidemiology and ecology.
Eva Santermans holds a bachelor degree in mathematics (2010, UHasselt), a master degree in mathematics (2012, KU Leuven) and a PhD degree in sciences: statistics (2016, UHasselt). During her PhD she worked under the supervision of promotor Niel Hens, and co-promotor Marc Aerts. Her research includes the statistical and mathematical modelling of infectious disease epidemiology using social contact data and network analysis. From January 2017 to December 2017 she worked as a senior statistician at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of J&J. Since January 2018, she works as a biostatistician at Gálapagos in the Statistical Modelling and Data Science group. She currently joined forces again with her former research group at UHasselt during this exceptional time.
Prof. dr. Pierre Van Damme obtained his MD from the University of Antwerp in 1984. He received post-graduate degrees in health and economics, the evaluation of human corporal damage, and a master degree in occupational health. He obtained his PhD in epidemiology and social medicine in 1994 at the University of Antwerp. He is currently full professor and vice-dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Antwerp where he chaired the Vaccine & Infectious Disease Institute (VAXINFECTIO, University of Antwerp) from 2007 till 2018. He is the honorary chair of the VAXINFECTIO - a consortium of four research units he founded in 2007-2008: the Laboratory of Medical Microbiology, the Laboratory of Experimental Hematology, the Centre of Health Economic Research and Infectious Disease Modelling, and the Centre for the Evaluation of Vaccination (CEV). Recognized as ‘Centre of Excellence’ of the University of Antwerp, it functions as WHO Collaborating Centre for the control and prevention of infectious diseases. Pierre Van Damme founded the CEV in 1994 and is still the director of the CEV.
Pierre Van Damme has authored more than 400 peer-reviewed papers and is on the editorial board of several scientific journals. Professor Van Damme was awarded with the Research Award of the University of Antwerp and with the Belgian Social Medicine Award ‘Jean Van Beneden’ for his work on the introduction of universal hepatitis B immunization programs. In May 2014, he was awarded with the prestigious Bill Marshall award of the ESPID society. In October 2017 he was awarded by the ACRP (Association of Clinical Research Professionals) with the European Outstanding Leadership Award; and end of 2017 with the prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. He obtained in 2019 the Balmis distinction Award (Almeria, Spain) and the AHA Antwerp Innovation award.
Since 1994, he has served as the executive secretary of the Viral Hepatitis Prevention Board. In 2016 he participated in the creation of a second expert board on Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the HPV control and prevention board. His current research projects at the University are focused on the epidemiology and prevention of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases. Since 1985 he has conducted more than 410 vaccine trials. Recently his team has conducted a unique project for the Gates Foundation – a novel vaccine trial in quarantine conditions.
He has been for more than 10 years a regular advisor for national and international organizations. He has been appointed as chairman of the European Technical Advisory Group of Experts on communicable diseases and vaccines for the WHO European Region (ETAGE) (2005-2015). He is a member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine since 2008, and of the board of UNICEF Belgium (2010-2018).
Joris holds a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from Hasselt University and a Masters degree in Biochemistry from the Catholic University of Leuven. He completed his training as a Medical Immunologist at the Maastricht University Medical Center. During this medical training he performed residencies in transplantation immunology at the UCLA in Los Angeles and at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer research center in Seattle. Joris has over 15 years of experience in academic research and is specialized in the fundamental and translational aspects of human immunology. He started his career as a postdoctoral fellow at the Maastricht University Medical Center developing cellular immunotherapy for cancer. Later he managed several diagnostic programs in the clinic, including kidney transplantation, autoimmunity, immune deficiencies and hematological malignancies. Joris currently provides strategic R&D advise to various biotech companies as an independent consultant and functions as senior business analyst in the investment team of Bioqube Ventures (an independent VC-fund). Since 2018 Joris supports the infectious disease modeling group with immunological, methodological and translational research questions.
Geert Verbeke is Full Professor in Biostatistics at L-BioStat, one of the divisions of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care of KU Leuven. He chairs L-BioStat and is Head of Department. He received the M.S. degree in mathematics (KU Leuven, 1989) the M.S. degree in biostatistics (U Hasselt, 1992), and earned a Ph.D. in science (biostatistics) from KU Leuven (1995). He is chair of the Department of Public Health and Primary Care of the Group of Biomedical Sciences of KU Leuven (2014-2017), is director of L-BioStat and vice-director of I-BioStat, the Interuniversity Institute for Biostatistics and statistical Bioinformatics between KU Leuven and U Hasselt. Since 2002, he is the representative of the Faculty of Medicine in the Steering Committee of the Leuven Statistics Research Centre (LStat), which he chaired between 2015 and 2017. He has published extensively on various aspects of linear mixed models for longitudinal data analyses. He has held visiting positions at the Gerontology Research Center and the Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD). Geert Verbeke is Past President of the Quetelet Society, International Program Chair for the International Biometric Conference in Montreal (2006), Joint Editor of the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A (2005-2008), and Co-editor of Biometrics (2010-2012). He has served and serves on a variety of committees of the International Biometric Society. Geert Verbeke is elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association and Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute. He served as international representative on the Executive Board of the American Statistical Association for the periode 2007-2009, and was council member for the Royal Statistical Society, 2013-2016. He received accreditation as professional statistician from the American Statistical Association (ASA) 2010-2016, and received the International Biometric Society Award for the best Biometrics paper in 2006. He edited and authored several books on the analysis of longitudinal data. He taught a large number of short courses for academia, industry, the regulatory authorities, and at scientific meetings. He is the current President (2020-2021) of the International Biometric Society.
Sarah Vercruysse received a master degree in psychology (2007) and a PhD degree in biomedical sciences (2012) from the University of Leuven. From 2007 to 2014 her research entailed behavioural and neuroimaging studies aimed at better understanding why a subgroup of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD), experience motor blockades or ‘freezing episodes’ during walking and other repetitive movements. The project had a strong multidisciplinary character as it involved collaborations with Neurology, Radiology, and Psychology and Rehabilitation Sciences in Belgium and abroad.
In November 2014, she joined the Center for Statistics at Hasselt University as research manager where she supports CenStat staff in the acquisition of research funding, the collaboration with academic and industrial partners and the commercialization of research results via funding of the Industrial Research Fund (‘IOF’ 50%) and the Methusalem consortium (50%) (PI’s: Prof. Herman Goossens (Antwerp University) and Prof. Geert Molenberghs (Hasselt University).
Frederik Verelst is a Health Economics researcher who obtained his MSc in Economics from KU Leuven in 2015. Since November 2015 he has been employed as a PhD student at the Centre for Health Economics Research and Modelling Infectious diseases (CHERMID) under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Philippe Beutels, where he has been working on an FWO project: “Individual behavior and extra-utilitarian ethics in health economic evaluation: an individual-based modelling approach for measles elimination”. His work focusses on incorporating prevention behavior in relation to infectious disease dynamics, assessing societal preferences with respect to vaccination by means of discrete choice experiments (DCE), determinants of vaccination coverage and the economic evaluation of vaccination programs.
Maren Vranckx received a master degree in applied mathematics from the University of Gent (2016). She started her Phd in September 2016 under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Christel Faes. Her research primarily focuses on spatially correlated data. Maren Vranckx teaches courses mathematics and statistics in the Faculty of Applied Economy, the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Medicine and Live Science.
James Wambua obtained a bachelors degree in mathematics from the University of Nairobi, in Kenya in 2014. In 2015, he proceeded to Senegal to undertake a masters in mathematical sciences which he completed in 2016. In 2017, he joined University of Antwerpen to undertake a masters degree in epidemiology and completed in 2019.
Currently, he works as a PhD student under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Niel Hens. His research primary focuses on mathematical modeling of infectious diseases. In particular, exploring the influence of social contact behavior in the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases, and assessing the cost-effectiveness of Varicella and Zoster vaccination programs in Belgium.
Lander Willem holds a Ba-Ma degree in Bioscience Engineering (2010) from KULeuven and a PhD in Medical Sciences (2015) from UAntwerp. He holds a post-doc fellowship from the FWO to elaborate on individual-based models integrating transmission dynamics, uncertainty and health economic evaluations. In the philosophy of engaging in interdisciplinary research, his work has a particular focus on parameter estimation, social contact patterns, model exploration, and computational efficiency. He is principal investigator of the individual-based model “Stride” to study the interaction between adaptive social behavior and close-contact disease transmission. This C++ simulator is evolving towards a new platform in R based on high-performant transmission modelling and state-of-the-art health economic analyses. He co-authored 2 peer-reviewed Belgian Government Reports and received the “Outstanding Poster Award” at the international “Epidemics4” conference.