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Information Extraction from Scientific Texts to support Nature-Inspired Engineering (EPS2020/39)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, February 28, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Nature has inspired various highly innovative engineering solutions, such as Velcro, the Japanese bullet train and others. Solving engineering problems using Nature requires however specific and interdisciplinary domain knowledge. Natural Language Processing (NLP) tools will be used to support engineers during the retrieval, filtering and processing of scientific biology texts.

The overall fitness of a biological organism is determined by a variety of functional requirements, e.g., reproduction. Optimising these functional requirements in biology is bounded by relational constraints. Requirements may be mutually exclusive when a shared resource is limited. The mutual exclusivity constraint is known as a trade-off in biology. The resolution of these trade-offs is thought to drive adaptation and speciation, and, therefore, a significant proportion of scientific biology texts describe such trade-offs. Insight in the resolution of these trade-offs is invaluable to engineers and biologists. However, engineers know little about biology and have difficulties in finding, selecting and understanding biology information that may be relevant.

This PhD studentship revolves around the development of Natural Language Processing (NLP) tools that extract trade-offs from scientific biology texts, as well as the central concepts and relations that enable a layperson to quickly grasp a full-text document. A successful candidate can expect to be responsible for 1) the development of novel Deep Neural Network (DNN) architectures for Information Extraction (IE) from scientific text, 2) the creation of new dataset(s) that meet the requirements of Nature-Inspired Engineering, and 3) the visualisation and aggregation of extracted information.


All applicants must have or expect to have a 1st class MChem, MPhys, MSci, MEng or equivalent degree by Autumn 2020. Selection will be based on academic excellence and research potential, and all short-listed applicants will be interviewed (in person or by Skype). Our scholarships are usually only open to UK/EU applicants who meet residency requirements set out by EPSRC, however some scholarships are available for exceptional overseas candidates.

Closing Date

All applications must be received by 28th February 2020. All successful candidates should usually expect to start in September/October 2020.

How to Apply

Apply Online - https://hwacuk.elluciancrmrecruit.com/Admissions/Pages/Login.aspx

When applying through the Heriot-Watt on-line system please ensure you provide the following information:
(a) in ‘Study Option’
You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose Electrical Engineering PhD, Mechanical engineering PhD, chemical engineering PhD or Bio-engineering and Bio-sciences PhD and select September 2020 for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)
(b) in ‘Research Project Information’
You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter Title and Reference number of the project for which you are applying and also enter the supervisor’s name.

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application.

Please note that once you have submitted your application, it will not be considered until you have uploaded your CV and transcripts.

Funding Notes

The annual stipend will be £15k per year and full fees will be paid for 3 years.

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