Postdoctoral position available on NSF-funded project
Written by Simon Garnier on January 7, 2021
The SwarmLab at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is seeking a postdoctoral researcher with expertise in animal behavior and field experimentation to join an NSF-funded research project led by Dr. Simon Garnier (NJIT) and Dr. Mike Rubenstein (Northwestern University). This project brings together biologists and engineers to achieve two goals: (1) understand the principles of self-assembling construction in army ants, and (2) adapt these principles to create a new generation of robots capable of self-assembling in unpredictable environments.
The postdoctoral researcher will work mainly on achieving the first goal by studying the construction by army ants of living structures such as bridges (see video below from previous experiments) and bivouacs. To achieve this goal, the postdoctoral researcher will perform field experiments making use, among other things, of a custom field CT-scanner, developed and tested during a previous field season in order to measure the 3D dynamics of the construction process. However, the postdoctoral researcher will also be given ample opportunity to participate in activities linked to the second goal, in particular, the creation and analysis of dynamical models of collective self-assemblage and their application to swarm robotics.
The position is starting as early as March 1st, 2021, and is expected to be filled no later than June 1, 2021, in order to perform a first field season during the summer of 2021. The position is for 2.5 years but may be extended if additional funding is secured during the course of the project. In addition, the two PIs will work with the postdoctoral researcher toward securing independent funds for their future career.
Potential candidates are strongly encouraged to contact Simon Garnier (email@example.com) to discuss the details of the project and learn more about the position. Applications will be reviewed as they are received. The application period will remain open until filled.
We are seeking candidates with the following profile:
- A strong interest in conducting collaborative research. In particular, candidates should be willing to engage in collaborative activities outside of their primary discipline.
- Experience with and/or strong desire for working in an interdisciplinary environment
- Knowledge and experience in field experimentation, animal behavior, and/or social insect biology. Experience in all these areas at once is not required but the candidates should at least demonstrate an interest in engaging in all of them.
- A willingness to spend several months every year (typically, 2 months per year) working at a tropical research station to perform the field experiments required for the project. Travel, board, and room will be covered by the project during these periods. Funds are also available to hire field assistants and the two PIs will also come to the station each year to help set up the experiments.
- While not essential for the position, knowledge and experience in using modern statistical tools (e.g. GLMMs), and/or machine learning techniques (e.g. ANNs, classifiers), and/or agent-based modeling methods, and/or mathematical modeling approaches is a plus.
The successful candidate will be expected to fulfill the following essential functions:
- Lead the preparation, execution, and analysis of the experimental portion of the project in collaboration with the two PIs.
- Contribute to or lead lab publications, conference submissions, as well as grant proposals.
- Act as a mentor to diverse and ambitious students in the lab and at the field station, as well as collaborate effectively with colleagues and support staff.
- Through mentorship and strategic planning with the PI, develop additional skills and experience valuable to long-term career goals.
While the functions of the successful candidate will be primarily focused on the goals of the NSF-funded research project, there will be opportunities to develop independent projects as well as participate in other ongoing lab initiatives.
The successful candidate will receive direct guidance in mentoring students, the development of new scientific skillsets, and career planning. In addition, funding is available to attend development workshops and conferences. Part of the project planning will include a roadmap for generating products that correspond with the candidate’s long-term career goals.
The SwarmLab is an interdisciplinary research lab that studies the mechanisms underlying the coordination of large animal groups, such as ant colonies or human crowds, and their applications to complex problems such the organization of pedestrian traffic or the control of robotic swarms. We study how information is exchanged and transformed during interactions between the members of a group, and how this can lead to the emergence of successful or catastrophic group behaviors.
In this project, the SwarmLab is associated with the collective robotics lab of Dr. Mike Rubenstein at Northwestern University. The Rubenstein lab seeks to advance the control and design of multi-robot systems, enabling their use instead of traditional single robots and to solve problems for which traditional robots are not suitable.
The lab is part of the Federated Department of Biological Sciences, which spans Rutgers University–Newark and NJIT. Located in NJIT’s urban campus in Newark, the lab is part of a vibrant and active research department, with strengths in ecology, systematics, animal behavior, functional morphology, as well as cellular and neurobiology. In addition, NJIT has strong research groups in engineering, computer science, and mathematics, and is situated in the very academically-dense New York City metro area, with universities like Columbia, NYU, CUNY, Rockefeller, Princeton, and more within an hour range.
Please send a cover letter motivating your application for the position (2 pages max), a CV including contact information for 3 references (the references will be contacted directly by us if necessary), and the link to your Google Scholar page. All material should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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