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Modelling skull growth and biting performance in hominids

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, February 04, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

This project aims to characterise and compare in detail how cranial form, masticatory system functioning and the skull mechanical response to biting forces develop. These will be compared among humans, chimpanzees and fossil hominins of varying ages to explore in each how forces, mainly from jaw loading, change in tandem with cranial form and, in turn, influence its development. The aim is to relate differences among adults to differences in ontogenetic interactions of cranial form and function.
This will require segmentation and 3D reconstruction of CT scans, detailed landmarking and geometric morphometric analyses of fossils and ontogenetic series of humans and chimpanzees, characterisation of muscle lever mechanics, construction of finite element models and carrying out and interpretation of finite element analyses. The project also offers opportunities to explore how warping and simulated adaptive remodelling of models might facilitate understanding of the functional consequences of aspects of variation and vice-versa.
The project is best suited to candidates with a background in comparative or human anatomy and evolution and with skills in aspects of biomechanics, biomedical engineering, virtual anthropology and geometric morphometrics. Applications are encouraged from such candidates or from candidates with a background in a related fields and the potential to develop expertise in the areas required to undertake this work. Training in the necessary background and techniques will be provided as necessary.
Principal supervisor: Prof Paul O’Higgins (Hull York Medical School, University of York)
Supervisory Team and Environment
This project will be carried out at the University of York, based in the PalaeoHub, a new facility that brings together members of HYMS and the Archaeology department with interests in prehistory, anatomy and artefacts, and whose focus of research relates to how our interactions with each other and the environment have led to cultural and physical transformations over time.
Teaching Duties
This is a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) position and, in addition to research, the successful candidate will be expected to contribute up to 250 hours per annum of teaching support.
Start Date - 1st October 2019
Qualifications and Skills Required
The successful candidate will be expected to hold a first class honours degree or an upper second in a relevant subject area and, ideally, a Master’s degree in a relevant topic with honours or distinction. As part of your application you will need to submit a CV, and a personal statement outlining your career to date, career intentions as well as detailing your experience, skills and knowledge relevant to this position (up to 1000 words). Some experience in the delivery of academic or practical content to small groups would be preferred. You should have excellent written and oral communication skills, be able to work well independently and be highly motivated to undertake PhD research.
How to Apply
All applications MUST BE submitted to the HYMS Postgraduate Centre via the online application method. Please select ‘PhD in Human Sciences’ with a start date of ‘2019 October, full-time’:
The deadline for applications is Monday 4th February 2019 at 23h59.
Please quote “HYMS - Modelling skull growth and biting performance in hominids” when applying. In order for the panel to get a sense of your academic background, commitment and interest, you are required to complete the application form in full and provide a research proposal/outline of academic interest. Research proposals and personal statements may be used in selecting applicants for interview. If you have any queries on how to apply please email .
Please note that this is a student scholarship. If you will be employed by HYMS (e.g. on a fixed or short term contract) for the duration of your study, you will not be eligible to receive the student scholarship as a member of HYMS staff. You should contact if you still wish to apply to discuss different options.

For further details on the supervisory team, environment and teaching duties, visit

Funding Notes

A stipend at the Research Council UK rate (£14,777 for 2018-19, TBC 2019-20) and a fee waiver at the Home/EU rate will be provided.

This competition is open to UK and EU graduates or graduates from overseas. If a successful candidate is not eligible to pay Home/EU fees, they will need to fund the difference in tuition fees between the prevailing Home/EU and Overseas fees. The government has confirmed that EU students starting in 2019/20 will continue to pay UK fees for the duration of their studies, even if the course concludes after the UK’s exit from the EU.

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