Researcher Spotlight : Ângelo Joel Ferreira Mendes

Published: 8 March 2019

Kirsty McWhinnie has caught up with Joel Mendes this week. Read how Joel's early interest in all things living set him on the road to becoming a One Health Researcher...

Provide a short introduction to yourself i.e. how long you’ve been a PhD student, who your supervisors are…
My name is Ângelo Joel Ferreira Mendes, and I started my PhD in October 2018. My supervisors are Dr Jo Halliday (IBACHM), Professor Nicholas Hanley (IBACHM), and Professor Emma McIntosh (Institute of Health and Wellbeing). I am funded by the Lord Kelvin Adam Smith (LKAS) PhD Scholarship scheme.

Can you tell us about your background? How did you become interested in science and where did you study before Glasgow?
In 2006, my passion for living creatures took me to the University of Lisbon (in Portugal where I am originally from), to study veterinary medicine. Although my main interest in veterinary sciences was the health and welfare of animals, I soon realised that vets had an essential role in tackling diseases common to humans and animals, and such a role required holistic approaches involving several scientific disciplines. I was introduced to the concept of “one health” and became fascinated by its potential social benefits and philosophical underpinnings. This interest ended up shaping my career decisions.
In the first three years after graduation, I worked as a small animal practitioner and researched antimicrobial resistance at the University of Porto, Portugal. At this stage, the focus of my research was the spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria between animals and humans in household and clinical settings.
I then realised that I needed to improve my skills in epidemiology and statistics to become a “one health” researcher so I decided to do an MSc in Public Health. During my MSc research project, I studied a zoonotic parasitic disease in English farmed pigs - ascariasis. More specifically, I analysed post-mortem inspection results of nearly 2.5 million pigs and characterised the associated environmental and socioeconomic determinants (the resulting paper can be found here:

What can you tell us about your PhD project?
During my PhD project, I will be looking at the epidemiology and economics of zoonoses control. A veterinarian studying epidemiology makes perfect sense, but economics? Well, the available resources to control zoonoses are not unlimited so we need economics, the “social science concerned with the problem of using or administering scarce resources”. With this project, I expect to use insights from both epidemiology and economics to improve the prediction and management of zoonotic diseases. In fact, I am particularly interested in the feedback between animal and human disease dynamics and the behavioural and economic factors that feed into those dynamics. This is an interesting approach described as “epidemiological economics”.

What is the focus of your research?
I will be focusing specifically on brucellosis control in northern Tanzania. Brucellosis is an infectious disease that causes an intermittent fever syndrome in humans and abortions in livestock. People usually get infected while working directly with animals or their products or through the consumption of raw or undercooked dairy and meat. Despite the efforts to control the disease, human brucellosis is one of the most common zoonotic diseases worldwide. To effectively control brucellosis in human and livestock populations, we need interventions targeted at both. That is why “one health” is so pertinent. This kind of intervention approach requires coordination across medical and veterinary sectors.

 Why did you decide to do your PhD in IBACHM/UofG?
Our department here at Glasgow is at the forefront of “one health” research.

What do you find most interesting about your work and what has been the most positive aspect so far?
I enjoy being able to provide evidence that supports decision-making and delivery of public policy for zoonoses prevention and control. The most positive and exciting aspect is certainly learning from and being inspired by current and past extraordinary Glasgow scholars.

What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
It is not easy to cope with the distance from my family.

What advice would you give to anyone doing or considering PhD?
Chose the right topic, ensure enough funding, come to Glasgow, and enjoy!

Tell us about your plans for the future
I hope to develop the skills and deliver the services that help to prevent and control zoonoses worldwide.

First published: 8 March 2019