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The olfactory cocktail party: How animals and humans segregate mixed odours


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  Dr Paul Szyszka, Dr Tim Edwards  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

University of Otago / University of Waikato 3 PhD Opportunities


Three PhD Scholarships

The olfactory cocktail party: How animals and humans segregate mixed odours

Host Institutions:             University of Otago, Dept. of Zoology/ Dept. of Food Science, Dunedin, NZ

                                            University of Waikato, School of Psychology, Hamilton, NZ

Partner Institution:          Texas Tech University

Supervisor(s):                   Dr Paul Szyszka, Dr Tim Edwards, Dr Mei Peng, Dr Graham Eyres

Start date:                          1 March 2022

Duration:                            36 months

Funding:                              NZD $35,000 base stipend + tuition fees per annum for 3 years.

Project Description: Most animals rely on odours to locate food, mates, habitats, and dangers. Although odours from different sources mix, animals can segregate relevant odour sources. But how they solve this olfactory cocktail party problem is unknown. Recent studies in insects show an exciting clue to this problem – animals use small time differences in odorant arrival to segregate odours. In these 3 PhD projects, we will test the hypothesis that insects (Paul Szyszka, Uni. of Otago), dogs (Tim Edwards, Uni. Of Waikato) and humans (Mei Peng and Graham Eyres, Uni. of Otago) can segregate odours using temporal cues, and we will uncover the natural stimulus dynamics that enable odour source segregation. Revealing odour segregation processes in animals has important implications for ecology (foraging), pest control (pheromone traps), scent-detection technology, and neurology (disease indicators).


Eligibility: Applicants currently in NZ or Australia. Equivalent of a New Zealand 1st class Honours degree or a MSc degree (both with a significant research component) in either Psychology, Neuroscience, Life Sciences, Physics, Computer Science, or Geoscience (or similar). Your research dissertation or thesis will have been awarded first class honours, or a strong upper second (B+).

Personal attributes:

·          Demonstrated ability to undertake self-directed research activities.

·          Knowledge of (or willingness to learn) programming-based data analysis.


Documentation to include in your application:

·        A detailed CV

·        The names and contact details of two referees

·        A copy of an academic transcript

·        A PDF copy of your research dissertation or thesis (if available)

·        A written statement (300-500 words) outlining why this project interests you and how you meet the selection criteria


Contact Information:

For the PhD project involving research with insects, contact Paul Szyszka ().

For the PhD project involving research with dogs, contact Tim Edwards ().

For the PhD project involving research with humans, contact Mei Peng () and Graham Eyres ().

The application closes on 31 January 2022, or as soon as a suitable candidate is found.

Funding Notes

Marsden Project Grant
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