Modelling the morphogenesis, geometry and function of termite nests
This is a fully funded PhD opportunity for UK or EU nationals who have or will achieve a Master’s degree by the 31st December 2018. The successful applicant will join the Centre for Research in Ecology Evolution and Behaviour of the University of Roehampton (London, UK) and will receive a stipend of £16,777 per year, for three years. The tuition fees of £4,260 per year will be covered by the University. Research funds (£14,000) will also be provided to support the direct research costs of the PhD (research travel costs, computer, consumables etc.)
The start date for this position is the 1st January 2019.
Application deadline: 10th November 2018
PhD Supervisors: Dr Andrea Perna, Dr Lewis Halsey.
Application process: Expressions of interest, including a CV, should be made to Dr Andrea Perna (firstname.lastname@example.org).
ELIGIBILITY CONDITIONS AND DUTIES:
Graduates in multiple disciplines welcome to apply. We seek candidates with a background in the quantitative sciences (physics, quantitative biology, applied mathematics, computer sciences and related scientific areas) and with an interest for pattern formation and self-organisation phenomena. The successful candidate is expected to join the research group of Dr Andrea Perna and to develop her/his own research project around the research topic outlined below.
Full time bursary students are expected to be available for the equivalent of up to 4 hours a week over 40 weeks a year for teaching or teaching-related work. Where the student undertakes teaching or teaching-related work, the time for preparation, marking, and related administration shall be included in those six hours maximum per week. The hours may be deployed in blocks or regularly throughout the 40 weeks depending on opportunities available and what is practical.
DETAILS OF POTENTIAL RESEARCH:
Nest building by social insects is one of the most classical examples of self-organisation phenomena in living systems, and has contributed to the evolutionary success of ants and termites. Surprisingly, still very little is known about the mechanisms underlying the construction of these structures and about their morphological and functional properties. Our laboratory aims at addressing these questions by using a variety of techniques, from micro-computed tomography imaging, 3D image analysis, mathematical and computational modelling and mechanical experiments on nest fragments.
We are focusing in particular on the characterisation of arboreal nests of nasute termites, which exhibit a range of interesting morphological features and are also phylogenetically important for understanding the evolution of nest building behaviour. This project is currently funded by the Royal Society in the form of a Newton International post-doctoral fellowship to Dr Giulio Facchini. The PhD student would mainly be based in the University of Roehampton – London and perform data analysis and modelling of nests, but there is also the possibility to take part in a research expedition to Sydney (Australia) during the first year to visit collaborators working on social insect biology (in particular Prof. Nathan Lo) and to collect nest samples (there is a budget for this).
Further details available here: http://perna.fr/PhD_advert.pdf
Perna and Theraulaz (2017) When social behaviour is moulded in clay: on growth and form of social insect nests. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220, 83-91.
Arab et al. (2017) Parallel evolution of mound building and grass feeding in Australian nasute termites. Biology letters 13, 20160665
Khuong et al. (2016) Stigmergic construction and topochemical information shape ant nest architecture. PNAS 113, 1303-1308
Perna et al. (2008) Topological efficiency in three-dimensional gallery network of termite nests. Physica A 387, 6235-6244