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  Tackling societal challenges with complex systems and computational social science. PhD in Computer Science

   College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

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  Dr Marcos Oliveira, Dr Diogo Pacheco  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Location: Department of Computer Science, Streatham Campus, Devon, University of Exeter

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence as soon as possible. The studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £18,622 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.

This studentship is open to UK and international applicants.

Project Description:

In this project, you will investigate the complexities of societal challenges using advanced (explicit) computational models. Your research will focus on applying and developing sophisticated modelling techniques to explore the interplay of socioeconomic factors on social phenomena. 

Instead of black-box models, you will delve into the realm of complex adaptive systems, investigating how individual and collective behaviours emerge and influence societal outcomes over time. The project aims to characterize and uncover social mechanisms by modelling, simulating, analysing, and predicting social trends and regularities. 

This project takes shape around your expertise and background. Depending on your background, you will focus on either of the following distinct areas: (1) the mechanisms of crime in cities, (2) understanding inequality via generative network models, and (3) network effects on how beliefs and attitudes spread.

In this project, you will use (learn) approaches based on network science, machine learning, information theory, agent-based and mathematical modelling, mean-field theory, among others.

This project is intrinsically interdisciplinary, and you must enjoy and challenge diverse ideas collaboratively.

Entry Requirements

This studentship is open to UK and International applicants.

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent international qualifications) in Computer Science, Physics, Mathematics, Statistics, Economics, or a related subject, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK. A relevant Master's degree and/or experience in computational or mathematical modelling would be an advantage.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.

Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to Apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents. Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”.

• CV

• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior project work experience and reasons for

 wishing to undertake the project).

• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an

 How to Apply interim transcript if you are still studying)

• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email

  the reference direct to [Email Address Removed] quoting the studentship reference number.

• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English. Please see the entry requirements information above.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 29th March 2024 . Interviews will be held online on the week commencing 15th April 2024.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email [Email Address Removed].

Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor at [Email Address Removed]

Please see this link for more information and how to apply: Award details | Funding and scholarships for students | University of Exeter

Computer Science (8) Economics (10) Engineering (12) Environmental Sciences (13) Finance (14)

Funding Notes

For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £18,622 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.


• Epstein, J. M. (2008). Why model? Journal of artificial societies and social simulation, 11 (4), 12.
• D'Orsogna, M. R., & Perc, M. (2015). Statistical physics of crime: A review. Physics of Life Reviews, 12, 1-21.
• Oliveira, M. et al. (2022). Group mixing drives inequality in face-to-face gatherings. Communications Physics, 5(1), 127.
• Oliveira, M., et al. (2017). The scaling of crime concentration in cities. PloS one, 12(8), e0183110.
• Miller, J. H., & Page, S. E. (2009). Complex adaptive systems: an introduction to computational models of social life. Princeton University Press.
• Epstein, J. M. (2012). Generative social science: Studies in agent-based computational modeling. Princeton University Press.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact: Dr. Marcos Oliveira

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