Are you interested in developing and using new ways of capturing, processing and understanding the behaviour of humans or animals?
Applications for 2018 are now closed.
The Centre for Behaviour and Evolution (CBE) in collaboration with the Behavioural and Experimental Northeast Cluster (BENC) and Open Lab have five fully funded 4-year PhD studentships in Behaviour Informatics and the multimodal study of behaviour. Studentships are funded by the Leverhulme Trust with an expected start date of September 2018.
We are looking for excellent applicants from a wide range of disciplines including:
- Other automated and/or high-throughput data collection or processing disciplines
- Other animal or human behaviour discipline
We are looking for exceptional candidates to be the new generation of Behaviour Informatics researchers. If you have a background in Informatics and wish to learn how to apply this to the study of behaviour, OR a background in Behavioural Sciences and wish to learn more about using Informatics techniques, we want to hear from you.
Successful applicants will complete a PhD using both behavioural and informatics disciplines. They will receive training to supplement their existing knowledge.
Each student and project will have supervisors from different disciplines, one with more expertise in Behaviour and one with more expertise in Informatics. This way they will receive guidance on the two disciplines which each PhD project spans.
During the first year, students will complete a year of training where they will gain extra theoretical or practical knowledge in behaviour and/or informatics. Training will be based on each individual student’s background, need and interest.
During that first year, students will also undertake three taster projects to find out more about different areas of Behaviour Informatics. Each project will last 12 weeks and the students will produce a report on each. Toward the end of that year, students will select their PhD project. Projects will be suggested by potential supervisors but there will be opportunity for students to shape these PhD projects to match their own interests and experiences.
During years 2-4, students will undertake research on their chosen project which will lead to a PhD qualification. PhD students will be part of a cohesive cohort who undertake joint social and academic activities to support their studies across different disciplines. This approach to PhD studies will give students the support and skills to cross the divide between different disciplines.
Informatics is the science of transformation and processing of data. Behaviour Informatics blends behavioural with computational sciences, building computational theories, systems and tools to model, represent and analyse the behaviour of individuals, groups and organisations. Few scientists could claim to be experts in Behaviour Informatics precisely because of the transdisciplinary nature of the field, the blend of behavioural and computational. Data collection methods may include the use of sensors, in the form of wearable, interactive or computer vision technologies. Processing methods may involve computational techniques such as machine learning (including deep learning), graph theory, data mining, and computer simulation. Finding meaning from large and complex datasets is not a skill in which behavioural scientists are currently trained.
Behaviour is multimodal
By measuring behaviour, we can learn more about human and animal communication, emotion and decisions. These are core aspects of who we are as humans and of how animals interact with each other and their environment. The trouble is that measuring behaviour and then interpreting what it means is not that easy. The behaviour of animals and people has different aspects which are expressed in combination (e.g. facial expressions, vocalisations, posture, colour change, choices). Together these different aspects are called multimodal behaviour.
Measuring multimodal behaviour is hard
Behaviour is made up of different aspects which need to be captured, changed into data, and combined in order to make meaningful interpretations. This has been challenging but emerging computing and sensor technologies provide new possibilities to capture and process multimodal behaviour.
Be part of the new field of Behaviour Informatics
If you are interested in designing new technology to measure different aspects of behaviour, or building new computational or statistical models of behaviour, or testing new theories about multimodal behaviour, then this is the scheme for you.
Below are some examples of the types of projects that will be on offer to Behaviour Informatics PhD students. These are provided for illustration purposes only. Students do not apply directly to a specific PhD project, projects are selected and shaped during the first year
Example project 1
How leadership style affects how effective teams are. The PhD concerns the influences of the timing of verbal information, visual and posture cues in effective leadership. The student has a background in economics but receives training in analytics and time series analysis. They learn techniques based on parsing this multimodal information as well as traditional behavioural experimental techniques and conducts field work to verify how effective different combinations of communication are in changing behaviour. The research provides rich insights on what makes for effective leadership (Supervisors: Zizzo & Olivier).
Example project 2
Using accelerometers to detect body posture, acoustic monitors to record vocalisations and video footage to monitor facial expressions in relaxed and anxious dogs. The student has a background in computing and receives upskill training in animal behaviour. They use machine learning techniques to integrate data across modalitites and finds that anxious and non-anxious dogs can only be classified as such from both body posture and facial expression together. The research allows understanding of the evolutionary conservation of body postures and facial expressions in relation to emotion (Supervisors: Asher & Guan).
Example project 3
Exploiting advances in virtual reality to run behavioural studies in a highly realistic "field in the lab". The student presents praying mantises with decisions about which prey to strike and measures movements of different parts of the mantis. The student builds models of how the information from the prey is used to make a decision about how to strike and tests these modes in a virtual reality 'game' environment. With a background in Zoology, the student undertakes additional training in Computer Game Design (Supervisors: Read & Morgan).
How to apply
Application is now closed
It is your responsibility to ensure two people are happy to provide a reference for you using the online form. Ideally these will be academic references, or otherwise people who can provide information on your suitability for a PhD in Behaviour Informatics.
You may also wish to send them a link to this website to give them more information on Behaviour Informatics PhDs. It is your responsibility to ensure that they receive the link and that they submit their reference. The reference letters will form a part of the application evaluation.
Shortlisted candidates will be invited to Newcastle University for a one-day recruitment event to learn more about doing a PhD in Behaviour Informatics and the multimodal study of behaviour. You will have tours of the available facilities and meet current students and staff working in this area. You will also be interviewed for the PhD studentships as part of this day.
Students should have a minimum 2.1 (or equivalent) in an undergraduate degree in either informatics or behaviour. This would include, but are not limited to: Animal or Human Behaviour Sciences, Computing, Economics, Engineering, Finance, Linguistics, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, Statistics, and Zoology. If your discipline is not listed please email for guidance. A Master’s degree and research experience, particularly cross –disciplinary research experience, are desirable.
Fees and funding
The studentships cover fees at the EU/UK rate. Non-EU students are welcome to apply but will need to fund the higher fees charged for international students, currently in the range of £16,800-£22,000 per year (subject to change).
The studentship also offers a 4 year non-taxable stipend at the UK Research council rate (currently £14,553 per annum).
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion statement
Applications are encouraged from all candidates, irrespective of gender, cultural background, ethnicity, disability, age, gender identity or sexual orientation. Newcastle University is a Champion of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and our recruitment practices are designed for maximum fairness, by minimising any effects of unconscious bias.
What is Behaviour Informatics?
Informatics is the science of transformation and processing of data. Behaviour Informatics blends behavioural with computational sciences, the field builds computational theories, systems and tools to model, represent and analyse the behaviour of individuals, groups and organisations. Few scientists could claim to be experts in Behaviour Informatics precisely because of the transdisciplinary nature of the field, the blend of behavioural and computational. Data collection methods will include using sensors, in the form of wearable, interactive or computer vision technologies. Processing methods will involve computational techniques such as machine learning (including deep learning), graph theory, data mining, and computer simulation. Finding meaning from such large and complex datasets is not a skill in which behavioural scientists are currently trained.
Who is the ideal Behaviour Informatics PhD student?
Students who are successful in gaining a funded PhD studentship in Behaviour Informatics at Newcastle University will have a minimum 2.1 (or equivalent) in an undergraduate degree in either informatics or behaviour. Informatics or Behavioural degrees would include, but are not limited to, Computing, Engineering, Mathematics, Statistics, Physics, Psychology, Zoology, Economics, Finance, Linguistics, Animal or Human Behaviour Sciences. A Master’s degree and research experience, particularly cross –disciplinary research experience, are desirable. Academic excellence, potential to undertake research in Behaviour Informatics, and letters of recommendation will be used to shortlist candidates. We are looking to recruit PhD students with a wide range of different skills so if your discipline isn’t listed please still consider applying. You can email Behaviour.firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like any guidance on your suitability to apply.
What training will I receive if I become a Behaviour Informatics PhD student?
You will be inducted to Newcastle University and provided with basic training. Then you will undertake a skill audit with a mentor. This will allow you to identify training you need to build on your skill set. You will be given a list of modules of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Newcastle which you can choose from to attend. This will allow you to gain skills in disciplines which you are less familiar, but which will help you in your PhD studies. For example, if you have studied Computer Science as an undergraduate and would like to apply computing to measuring economic choices, you might be taught in Experimental Economics methods. If you have a degree in Engineering and want to apply this to measuring animal behaviour you might undertake modules in animal behaviour. If you have a background in human behaviour and want to study the evolution of behaviour using Advanced modelling techniques you might undertake modules in Modelling. These are just examples and your mentor will help you to select the best modules for you. You will also undertake three taster projects to give you practical experiences of different types of behavioural informatics research.
What are taster projects?
Taster projects are 12 week long placements in the lab of a potential PhD supervisor. You will work on a short project or become part of a larger ongoing project, which will give you a taste of different types of Behaviour Informatics research. You will undertake three taster projects with different supervisor teams and to cover a range of different types of projects. These taster projects will help you to understand how your skills and experiences could be applied to Behaviour Informatics and to guide your PhD project choices.
Is the PhD fully funded?
If you are a UK or EU student your fees for undertaking a PhD will be covered and you will receive a basic stipend in line with those offered by Research Councils (currently £14,553 p.a. subject to change). Your supervisors will receive funding to support your research. Non-EU students are welcomed but will need to fund the higher fees charged for international students, compared to home or EU students. Fees for international students are currently in the range of £16,800-£22,000 per year (subject to change).
How many funded PhD studentships are available?
Newcastle University will be offering five PhD studentships every year for the next three years supported by funding from The Leverhulme Trust. Each PhD will be 4 years in duration. The first cohort of five students will start their PhDs in late September 2018.
Who do I contact if I have questions?
Please use the button below to email us with any queries. If you would like to speak to somebody by phone, please email detailing the nature of your query and provide a phone number so the relevant person can return your call.