Fully-funded PhD Studentship / Scholarship at the University of Birmingham, UK

Title: Co-Evolution of Neural Control and Body Plan under Limited Resources


An important aspect in the evolution of neural systems is the tight coupling between the control structure, the nervous system, and the physical properties of the system under control in its interaction with the environment. The first objective of this project is to research the influence of the competition of resources among the individuals on the neural organization during brain-body co-evolution. This is one of the open questions beyond the energy efficiency principle that we have disclosed as a main organization principle in the evolution of nervous systems [1]. The new model should be developed based on the existing models we have developed so far [2-3], e.g. by including environmental constraints. To achieve tangible results within the first year, a simplified, hand-coded developmental model for neural control and body plan could be used. Environmental constraints can include limited resources, such as nutrients, for the individual to survive. This will remove the simplification in the current models where resources are unlimited. As to the physics engine, we can take advantage of existing simulation freeware, such as BREVE [4].

Since not all aspects of the problem can be addressed within this project, the second objective of the project is to put the developmental model, environmental constraints, the physics engine and the genetic description together in a modular way so that the system can be extended flexibly for various research purposes regarding brain-body co-evolution, not only for understanding brain evolution, but also for constructing intelligent systems that are able to reconfigure themselves in a changing environment.

This exciting and adventurous project will be co-supervised by researchers from CERCIA (The Centre of Excellence for Research in Computational Intelligence and Applications, www.cercia.ac.uk) at the University of Birmingham, UK, and Honda Research Institute Europe GmbH (www.honda-ri.de), Germany. The successful candidate will be provided with excellent research environments in both academic and industrial settings.

  1. B. Jones, Y. Jin, X. Yao, and B. Sendhoff. Evolution of neural organization in a Hydra-like animat. 15th Int. Conf. on Neural Information Processing of the Asia-Pacific Neural Network Assembly (ICONIP'08), 2008.
  2. B. Jones, Y. Jin, B. Sendhoff, and X. Yao. Evolving functional symmetry in a three dimensional model of an elongated organism. Artificial Life XI, pp.305-312, 2008.
  3. Y. Jin, L. Schramm, and B. Sendhoff. A gene regulatory model for the development of primitive nervous systems. INNS-NNN Symposia on Modeling the Brain and Nervous Systems, November 2008.
  4. J. Klein. BREVE: A 3D environment for the simulation of decentralized systems and artificial life. Available from: http://www.spiderland.org/breve.pdf.

The Candidate

The successful applicant must have at least a 2.1 or above degree in computer science or a closely related field (or a Distinction at the MSc level). We do consider outstanding applicants from mathematics, physics and engineering as long as they have sufficient computer science background. Previous research experience is an advantage, but not necessary. The successful applicant must have outstanding analytical skills and excellent software development experiences. Ability to communicate clearly and effectively, both in writing and speaking, is essential. S/he must be an excellent team player who can also work independently.

The Studentship / Scholarship

Duration: Three years (subject to satisfactory progress).

Annual Payments: The Studentship includes GBP13,290 tax-free living allowance and fully paid tuition fee (GBP3,390 in 2009/10 for Home/EU Students).

Eligibility: Open to European Union / United Kingdom applicants. However, exceptional candidates outside UK/EU will be considered.

Deadline: The review of applications will start on 28 September 2009, until it is filled.

How to Apply

For more information on the PhD programme at Birmingham: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/admissions/postgraduate-research/

Please apply according to the instructions given in the above website, NOT to the person below. Once you have applied online, send a copy of your CV to x.yao@cs.bham.ac.uk with your application number.

For technical enquiries only: Prof. Xin Yao (x.yao@cs.bham.ac.uk)