Welcome to Pathogens and Human Health. A research group within Umik at Eawag.

Our research goal is to reduce global infectious disease burden through the study of pathogen transmission at the boundary between humans and the environment.


Despite dramatic reductions in infectious disease burden over the past century, morbidity and mortality remain strikingly high. For example, there are over 4 billion cases of gastrointestinal illness and 14 billion cases of respiratory illness worldwide every year. Combined, gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases are responsible for over 3 million deaths of children under five annually. These diseases, and other environmentally-mediated diseases like hepatitis, helminth infections, and tropical-cluster diseases rely on a variety of environmental reservoirs during transmission from infected to susceptible individuals.
Our research agenda is to advance the understanding of these transmission models, identify and assess interventions that interrupt transmission, and reduce global infectious disease burden.

Some of our ongoing and recently completed projects are below. For a full list of our publications, please see Google Scholar

Pathogen Fate and Transport

Disinfection Processes

Environmental Microbial Contamination

Global Sanitation

Human Activity Modeling

Risk Modeling


Current Members

Ana Karina Pitol is a Ph.D. student at EPFL advised by Tamar Kohn who is studying virus transfer between skin and liquids. Ana Karina received her M.Sc. in Bioengineering at EPFL.

M. Camila Montealegre is a postdoctoral fellow who is studying genetic determinants of E. coli growth and persistence in soils in low income countries as part of our Swiss National Science Foundation project. Camila received her Ph.D. from Dr. Barbara E. Murray's laboratory at the University of Texas in Houston (Houston, Texas, USA).

Marja Gachter is an M.Sc. student at ETH Zurich working as Hilfsassistentin. Marja is working alongside Tala to understand the factors influencing E. coli growth in soils of Low and Middle Income Countries as part of our Swiss National Science Foundation project.

Lea Caduff is a laboratory technician who is working jointly with Pathogens and Human Health and Dave Johnson's Microbial Community Assembly Group. Lea started in 2015 after her apprenticeship and the Berufsmaturitätsschule.

David Diston is a postdoctoral fellow who is studying factors influencing viral integration into biofilms as part of the Blue Diversion Toilet project. Dave received his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Brighton (East Sussex, UK)

Former Members

Hasitha Navado Vithanage was a Master's student at UNESCO-IHE. His thesis was entitled Quantifying pathogen exposures from agricultural land application of human excreta in Vietnam. Hasitha is a Civil Engineer at the Sri Lankan National Water Supply and Drainage Board.

Lukas Allemann is a Master's student at ETH Zurich. His thesis is entitled Growth of Microorganisms in Treated Greywater as Part of Blue Diversion AUTARKY Project. Lukas is now completing an internship at Amt for Umwelt Kanton Thurgau

Mi Nguyen was a postdoctoral fellow who studied inactivation and growth of bacterial pathogens in greywater, as part of the Blue Diversion Toilet project. Mi is now a researcher working on anaerobic digestion as part of a joint project between Dr. Viet Anh Nguyen at the University of Hanoi (Hanoi, Vietnam) and Dr. Linda Strande at Eawag.

Tala Navab Daneshmand was a postdoctoral fellow who studied environmental transmission of E. coli in households in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, as part of a Swiss National Science Foundation project. Tala is now an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Chemical, Environmental, and Biological Engineering at Oregon State University (Corvallis, Oregon, USA)


Although we occasionally have open positions, we strongly encourage you to develop a source of funding to support you and your research interests. For existing opportunities, please see Eawag's Open Positions.

Established International Researchers interested in short (weeks or months) research visits may be eligible for funding through SNF's International Short Visits program.

M.Sc. applicants looking for a thesis hosting lab are strongly encouraged to contact Tim. We are always looking for motivated students interested in environmental transmission of infectious diseases.

Ph.D. applicants require a Master's degree and 3-4 years of funding. Ph.D. applicants are funded on project grants which are posted on the Eawag job website.

Postdoctoral fellow applicants need a Ph.D. degree in a related field and at least 1 year of funding. Potential Funding sources include Eawag Postdoctoral Fellowship, Marie Slodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship, Swiss National Science Foundation Ambizione Fellowship, Human Frontier Science Program, EMBO, United States National Science Foundation - Fellowship in Biology (PRFB)


If you are interested in joining our group, or just hearing more, please contact Tim. We welcome researchers at all levels (internship, Master's thesis, doctoral, or postdoctoral) and with broad backgrounds, including but not limited to: engineering, microbiology, mathematics,statistics, computer programming, anthropology, and economics. We also encourage you to look at the Funding link to identify potential ways to fund your interests.