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Cambridge Centre for Physical Biology



We are seeking a talented, creative and friendly individual to join our interdisciplinary team. We use physics-style mathematical models to understand the remarkable processes that allow single-cell embryos to develop into complex animal forms. 


Supervisor: Dr Tom Hiscock 


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The overall aim of the lab is to understand the developmental mechanisms by which organisms and organs self-organize – i.e. build themselves – forming complex structures of a certain shape, size and pattern. By combining physics-style mathematical modelling, quantitative data analysis and close collaborations with experimentalists, we formulate mathematical theories of development that explain how tissues break symmetry, generate patterns and undergo morphogenesis. We draw on ideas from many disciplines, including physics and mathematics, as well as developing our own theories and approaches. As a theorist, developmental biology is a particularly exciting field of research, with many unanswered questions and opportunities to discover new fundamental theories. 

A major aim of this project is to build more realistic models of biological signalling pathways to understand one of the earliest events in embryonic development: anterior-posterior (i.e. head-tail) patterning. This addresses a fundamental question in developmental biology that remains unanswered: why/how do animals develop only one head (why not 2, or 3)? During the PhD, students will also be encouraged to define and explore their own research questions. 



The successful candidate must have an interest and curiosity in understanding how embryos develop, although no formal training in developmental biology is required. As the project will be entirely computational, candidates should have strong quantitative skills and proficiency in coding (e.g. in MATLAB/R/Python) and theory (e.g. differential equations, linear algebra, Fourier analysis). Undergraduates from quantitative disciplines (e.g. physics, maths, engineering, computational biology) will be particularly well-suited, although applications will be considered from talented and motivated individuals regardless of undergraduate training.  



The studentship is open to UK/EU nationals, and is fully funded for 4 years (including stipend). The successful candidate will be embedded within the strong developmental biology hub at the Institute for Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, and will benefit from its supportive, stimulating and collaborative academic environment. As a place to live, Aberdeen is one of the few places in the UK where you can live in the heart of a multicultural and cosmopolitan city, but at the same time be less than an hour away from the wild and beautiful outdoors, be it mountain, river valley, forest or sea. Applications are made online here (deadline: 27th November). Please also get in touch with me directly; please send your CV and a brief description of why you would be a good fit for the studentship to