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Simulation uncertainty of complex systems

Faculty of Natural Sciences

About the Project

Simulation of complex systems allows research into the dynamics of systems that cannot be fully observed, ranging from biochemistry or cell-level biological processes, to social dynamics and beyond. The approach on which the PhD will be based is agent-based modelling and simulation, in which low level agents and their behaviours are executed, and higher-level behaviours allowed to emerge.

There are many challenges: behavioural modelling is well supported, but does not map well into simulation platform coding; agent systems are well defined but APIs lose flexibility; current practices do not facilitate software engineering best practice, but a major challenge is that the information from which a simulation is designed is incomplete. Uncertainties arising from unknown or approximated information affect simulation results in ways that have not been researched, recorded or evaluated.

The PhD research will work on simulation and uncertainty, working from specific existing research simulators and best-practice in (agent-based) simulation engineering (see e.g. Stepney and Polack (2018) Engineering simulations as scientific instruments, Potential existing simulators include: PPSim (; cell simulation e.g. K. Bentley’s tool base (; and novel transport simulation currently under development in a consortium involving Keele and an SME. A broad introduction to complex agent-based simulation research which makes some reference to uncertainties of simulation can be found in the youTube presentation by Prof. Polack,

Keele University is renowned for its exciting approach to higher education and research, beautiful campus, strong community spirit and excellent student life. The University has the UK’s largest campus with 617 acres of landscaped parkland, fields, woodlands and lakes. Keele University runs its own day nursery for infants from 3 months to 5 years and is committed to equality and diversity. Information for prospective postgraduate researchers can be found here:

Research Context: This PhD project will connect with on-going collaborative research activities (for example, in the informal network that includes Keele, Crick/King’s London and Sheffield universities, or in relation to projects in which Keele is a partner or lead: SEND, SLES Zero Carbon Rugeley, and The research will be supervised by Prof. Fiona Polack in the Centre for Computer Science Research at Keele University.

Applications are welcomed from graduates with a good background in software engineering and computer science, with (or anticipating) at least a 2.1 honours degree or equivalent. Applicants should have general understanding of complex systems, and should be self-motivated and have the ability to work both independently and as part of a team.

This opportunity is open to UK/EU and Overseas students. The collaborative and presentation aspects of the research require good English language and communication skills. Overseas applicants would therefore require an English IELTS (or equivalent) of 6.0 overall with no less than 5.5 in any subtest.

Please go to for information about application.

Applications are welcome all year around. Please quote FNS GS 2020-03 on your application.
Informal enquiries about the project are very welcome by email to the Project Lead, Prof. Fiona Polack (). Full applications should be submitted via:

Keele University values diversity, and is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity. In support of these commitments, Keele University particularly welcomes applications from women and from individuals of black and ethnic minority backgrounds for this post. The School of Computing and Mathematics and Keele University have both been awarded Athena Swan awards and Keele University is a member of the Disability Confident scheme. More information is available on these web pages:

Funding Notes

Open to fully self-funded students only.
Please note that self-funded applicants must provide funding for both tuition fees and living expenses for the 3 year duration of the research. There is a future possibility of competitive scholarship awards for outstanding applicants (1st class honours), however, none are currently available.

For information regarding University tuition fees please see: View Website

This opportunity for self-funded applicants only
(for example, international students with government or industry sponsorship and UK students with Doctoral Loan funding: View Website).

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