I am looking for a highly motivated PhD student to participate in our project “Ant-inspired rules for self-assembly in swarm robotics and complex systems” at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. This is a fixed term-position for three years (at standard PhD stipend rate – $27,000 per year), funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), and does not cover tuition fees (tuition fees are waived for domestic students).

Project description:

This Project aims to investigate self-assembly in weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) – where individual workers join their bodies together using simple rules at the individual-level to build complex structures at the group-level. This project will uncover the rules used by individual ants that lead to a range of functional self-assembled structures, by inducing colonies to form bridges, hanging chains and pulling chains in the laboratory and performing detailed behavioural analyses on the individual workers. The candidate will have the opportunity to assist in developing and using a state-of-the-art QR-code based system for individually tagging and automated tracking of ants by computer vision. The candidate will work with an international network of collaborators, including world experts in robotics and computer science, who will assist in building a modelling framework of analytical and simulation-based computer models derived from the ant behavioural rules. The models will be directly translated into novel swarm robotics control algorithms, which will be used to achieve two outcomes: i) testing whether the derived behavioural rules lead to successful self-assembly of the desired structure in a physical robot swarm, and; ii) upgrading robot swarms with ant-like capabilities of self-assembling into a variety of functional structures as needed, using a minimum of local information and no prior planning. The candidate will have the opportunity to test their findings on a brand new robot swarm purchased under this grant. The modelling framework may also provide insight into other, less accessible, complex systems, potentially leading to innovations in biomedical fields such as nanomedicine and bioengineering.

Successful candidates will have a Masters degree or equivalent in biology / computer science or a related field, good knowledge/experience in invertebrate behaviour, and an interest in biological complex systems and robotics. Candidates with strong interest (ideally with prior experience) in agent-based modelling and/or programming are highly desirable, though not essential. The ideal candidate will have very good oral and written communication skills in English.

Deadline for applications is 28/3/2019, to begin 1/5/2019 (or as near as possible).

For further information, please contact Dr. Chris Reid, email: chris.reid@mq.edu.au Applications should be a single pdf including a cover letter describing the motivation, previous research activities and current research interests, a CV with copies of BSc and MSc certificates, details of at least 2 referees and a list of publications if applicable.