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PhD studentship in Computational Neuroscience - Simulation and Modeling Platform of Molecular Communication Neuronal Network for Epilepsy.


Project Description

Applications are invited for 1 platform PhD position funded by the Science Foundation Ireland FutureNeuro Research Centre. FutureNeuro is a multi-disciplinary Research Centre that focuses on new technologies that can address and counter neurodegenerative diseases, specifically for epilepsy. The research centre consists of the following academic partners: Royal College Surgeons Ireland, Dublin City University, Trinity College, University College Dublin, and National University of Ireland, Galway. The candidate is expected to have a major interest in computational neuroscience, be highly self-motivated and interested in multi-disciplinary research.

Topic: Simulation and Modeling Platform of Molecular Communication Neuronal Network for Epilepsy.

Description: Neurological diseases account for one of the most complex medical challenges of this century, and one that continues to remain a challenge for humanity is Epilepsy. Over 50 million people globally, and 6 million in Europe suffer from epilepsy, out of which 400,000 people are in Ireland. Epilepsy affects the normal functions of the brain, and usually results from an uncontrolled over-firing process of the neurons within the brain. A number of studies have shown that epilepsy can start from various parts within the brain, one of which is the Hippocampus, and this could spread to various parts of the brain (primary generalized epilepsy). The other type is localized in a focal portion of the cerebral cortex, also known as focal epilepsy. The onset of epilepsy can usually result in repeated seizures that affect the patient, where its root causes is only partially understood. In the case of idiopathic epilepsy, the patients have no illness, disease, or damage to the brain that can lead to epilepsy. In other cases, studies have found that epilepsy may be due to genetic disorders or structural damages to the brain (e.g., malformed veins). A number of treatment solutions have been developed over the years to help counter epilepsy, and this includes gene therapy, Anti-Epileptic Drugs (AED), as well as surgery. In many cases, epilepsy can be treated or resolved, but this is no guarantee that the seizure may never return.

In recent years, a new research paradigm has been established, known as molecular communications. The aim of molecular communications is to characterize biological communication using concepts and theory from communication engineering and networking.

The aim of this PhD research is to develop a multi-disciplinary approach towards studying epilepsy, and to achieve this through the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The long-term result is to determine if technologies developed from ICT can be used to support animal studies, which are known to be very costly, or totally replace it. The objective is to develop a simulation platform that can be used to simulate the neurons of the brain that are linked to epilepsy. The construction of the simulation platform, will lead to a “mini-silicon brain” that will integrate parts of the hippocampus, as well as the cortex, to demonstrate the seizure spreading activities through various parts of the brain. The validation will be established through experimental data as well as data from open repositories to determine the accuracy of the simulation model to the real neural activities and spiking sequences. Our aim is to lay the platform for developing a mini-silicon brain that will avoid the use of animal testing. This PhD research will use tools and knowledge from molecular communications to simulate and model neural activities when undergoing seizures, and to determine simulation models that can be used to understand the impact of drugs on spiking activities.

Funding Notes

Four year full-time structured PhD

Stipend: €12,000 per annum for 4 years
Fees: €4,500 per annum for 4 years
Research Costs: €2,000 per annum for 4 years
Teaching Requirement: Two hours of academic development activities per week during the academic year in line with scholarship requirements

References

Person specification
Qualifications
Essential
• Bsc in Engineering in Electrical and Electronics (specializing in communication engineering), Computer Science, or Mathematics
(with good programming skills).
Desirable
• MSc degree in Engineering in Electrical and Electronics (specializing in communication engineering), or Computer Science
(specializing in communication network theory), or mathematics (numerical analysis).

Knowledge & Experience
Essential
• Strong mathematical modelling skills.
• Strong interpersonal and communications skills.
• Good programming skills with experience in MATLAB, python programming skills, or other tools used for modelling.
• Experience with simulation tools used in communication networks (e.g., ns3).
Desirable
• Experience in mathematical modelling and analysis of communication systems.
• Experience in the use of machine learning.
• Have a passion for mathematical and computational biology (especially computational neuroscience).

Skills & Competencies
Essential
• Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English, please see WIT’s English Language
Requirements for details.
• Highly motivated, demonstrate initiative and ability to work within multi-disciplinary project team to achieve results
• Have an academic record of excellence and good writing skills.
Desirable
• Paper Publications/ Journal writing and submission experience.
• Full list of publications, if any.

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