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The biology and physics of the most complex form of animal architecture: a study of growth and form of social insect nests


Project Description

This is a fully funded PhD opportunity for UK or EU nationals who have or will achieve a Master’s degree by the 1st October 2019. The successful applicant will join the Centre for Research in Ecology Evolution and Behaviour of the University of Roehampton (London, UK) and will receive a stipend of £16,777 per year, for three years. The tuition fees of £4,260 per year will be covered by the University. Research funds (£14,400) will also be provided to support the direct research costs of the PhD (research travel costs, computer, consumables etc.)

The start date for this position is the 1st October 2019.

PhD Supervisors: Dr Andrea Perna, Dr Lewis Halsey

Application Process:

Expressions of interest, including a CV, should be made to Dr Andrea Perna (). Informal enquiries are also welcome.

Eligibility Conditions and Duties:

We seek candidates with a background in the quantitative sciences (physics, biology, applied mathematics, computer sciences and related scientific areas) and with an interest for the study of self-organisation in biological systems. We accept applications from both experimentally oriented and theoretically oriented candidates.

Details of Potential Research:

Nest building by social insects is one of the most classical examples of self-organisation phenomena in living systems, and has contributed to the evolutionary success of ants and termites. Surprisingly, still very little is known about the mechanisms underlying the construction of these structures and about their morphological and functional properties. Our laboratory aims at addressing these questions by using a variety of techniques, from micro-computed tomography imaging, 3D image analysis, mathematical and computational modelling and mechanical experiments on nest fragments.

We are focusing in particular on the characterisation of arboreal nests, such as those built by Nasutitermes termites. These nests exhibit a range of interesting morphological features and present a unique opportunity to study the evolution of a wide range of architectures across multiple related and unrelated species.

This project is currently funded by the Royal Society in the form of a Newton International post-doctoral fellowship to Dr Giulio Facchini. The selected applicant will be based in the University of Roehampton – London, but will have the opportunity to take part in research expeditions to visit collaborators working on social insect biology (Prof. Nathan Lo and Dr Jerome Buhl in Australia and Dr David Sillam-Dusses in Paris).


Funding Notes

You will receive a stipend of £16,777 per year, for three years. The tuition fees of £4,260 per year will be covered by the University. Research funds (£14,000) will also be provided to support the direct research costs of the PhD (research travel costs, computer, consumables etc.)

References

Perna and Theraulaz (2017) When social behaviour is moulded in clay: on growth and form of social insect nests. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220, 83-91.
Arab et al. (2017) Parallel evolution of mound building and grass feeding in Australian nasute termites. Biology letters 13, 20160665
Khuong et al. (2016) Stigmergic construction and topochemical information shape ant nest architecture. PNAS 113, 1303-1308
Perna et al. (2008) Topological efficiency in three-dimensional gallery network of termite nests. Physica A 387, 6235-6244

How good is research at University of Roehampton in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 10.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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