Jantien Backer’s current research focuses on three topics. First, when a new infectious disease (re)emerges, fast methods are needed to provide insight in the transmission paths, to assist disease control decisions. Secondly, technological advances have led to increasingly faster and cheaper genetic sequencing data of pathogens. Using this type of data in dynamic transmission models can help to understand the spread of the pathogen in the population. Third, contact surveys in which participants keep track of their contacts over a day provide insight into behavior and contact patterns, not only under normal circumstances, but also during periods when control measures are in place. The ultimate goal of all these topics is to inform decision makers about the most effective control options during an outbreak.


Jantien Backer was trained as a chemical engineer (at the Technical University Delft, MSc 1999) and she continued in more theoretical research on particle dynamics (at the University of Amsterdam, PhD 2006).

She started modelling infectious diseases at the Central Veterinary Institute of Wageningen UR in 2006, working on a variety of topics and diseases. She studied the effectiveness of emergency vaccination and preemptive culling to control infectious livestock diseases, such as classical swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza. She also worked on (maximum likelihood and Bayesian) estimation methods for transmission parameters and test characteristics.

In 2014 she took up her current position at the Centre for Infectious Disease Control at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.