Postdoctoral Research Associate in Bioengineering

Imperial College London Department of Bioengineering

United Kingdom

Job summary

How insects choose their food sources and how plants can defend themselves are questions of substantial ecological, evolutionary and economical relevance. We seek to provide new insights into these questions by investigating an understudied aspect of plant feeding that all herbivores have in common: the mechanical breakdown of tough plant material. Plant fracture requires the application of a force, the magnitude of which depends on the...

Job listing information

  • Reference ENG01303
  • Date posted 9 June 2020
  • Closing date 8 July 2020

Key information about the role

  • Location South Kensington Campus (map)
  • Position type Full time, fixed term
  • Salary £40,215 – £45,615 plus benefits
  • Department Department of Bioengineering
  • Category Researcher / Non Clinical Researcher

Job description

Job summary

How insects choose their food sources and how plants can defend themselves are questions of substantial ecological, evolutionary and economical relevance. We seek to provide new insights into these questions by investigating an understudied aspect of plant feeding that all herbivores have in common: the mechanical breakdown of tough plant material. Plant fracture requires the application of a force, the magnitude of which depends on the morphology of the fracturing `tool’, and the material properties of the food source. This force is generated by muscle, in a process that consumes energy. Feeding on plants is therefore both mechanically challenging and metabolically costly, to an extent defined by muscle physiology, mouthpart morphology, and plant tissue mechanical properties. In our group, we are building on this common, physical foundation of herbivory to develop a mechanical and energetic framework that can be used to derive first-principles predictions of herbivore behaviour.

You will apply this framework to a number of model species, including leaf-cutter ants and wood-eating beetles. By integrating insights ranging from nano-scale mechanics up to whole-animal ecology, we hope to quantitatively link the mechanical properties of plants with the performance of herbivores, so explaining complex behavioral choices.

The position is funded through a recently awarded HFSP Grant which aims to unravel the biomechanical and energetic determinants of insect herbivore performance and behaviour. The PDRA will join an HFSP project team led Dr David Labonte (PI), joined by two other PIs in the USA (Prof. Natalie Holt, UC Riverside), and Canada (Prof Mattia Bacca, USBC) and their respective postdoctoral researchers. David's multi-disciplinary group addresses biological questions with a quantitative mechanics framework, including how climbing animals can rapidly control the stickiness of the adhesive organs on their feet, how biological ceramics combine strength and toughness, and the biomechanical determinants of plant feeding in insects. More details can be found on the group’s website at evo-biomech.ic.ac.uk.

Duties and responsibilities

You will
• investigate how cutting technique is adjusted to account for variations in the structural and mechanical properties of the food source
• use automated computer vision & machine learning pipelines developed elsewhere in the project to study the relationship between mechanics, energetics and the size of fragments cut by ant workers of different sizes
• extend existing biomechanical approaches such as measurements of bite and cutting forces to other model insect herbivores.

You will also have the opportunity to supervise MEng/MSc students and to be actively and officially involved in the supervision of PhD candidates through Imperial’s `Assistant supervisor’ scheme. Where desired, experiences in other teaching roles, including lecturing, will be enabled as part of the broad range of career development opportunities that Imperial College makes available to its postdoctoral research staff. There are several opportunities to visit laboratories across the world for collaborative work.

Essential requirements

We seek to hire a friendly, motivated, critical and independent candidate with a PhD (or equivalent) in entomology, zoology, physiology, biomechanics or a related field, and a keen interest in the intersection between mechanics and biology.

The ideal candidate will have experimental experience in working with insects in a biomechanical framework. Scientific computing skills in R, Python or equivalent programming languages, as well as experience with small-scale sample preparation and metabolic measurements, are advantageous.

Candidates need to be able to conduct work with live and dead insects, possess excellent organisational skills, the ability to work toward deadlines with minimal supervision, and have strong written and oral communication skills. They will be engaging, supportive and motivating in all interactions with other researchers and students in the department, and provide mentorship where appropriate. They have a strong interest in being part of a collaborative and inclusive research group.

Further information

This is a fixed term position for 24 months (2 years) initially, with the possibility to extend for another 12 months (to a total of 3 years). Candidates who have not yet been officially awarded their PhD will be appointed as Research Assistant within the salary range £35,477 - £38,566 per annum.

Informal queries relating to the position should be directed to Dr David Labonte at d.labonte@imperial.ac.uk.

Our preferred method of application is via our website. Please click “APPLY NOW” to go through to the online application form. Should you have any queries regarding the application process please contact: Jo Adam (i.adam@imperial.ac.uk). For technical issues when applying online please email recruitment@imperial.ac.uk Please ensure that you include the job reference number in any correspondence.

The Department of Bioengineering leads the bioengineering agenda both nationally and internationally, with its staff coming from diverse academic disciplines, including all main branches of engineering, physical sciences, life sciences and medicine, to create a rich collaborative environment. More information about staff benefits, including generous annual leave entitlements and excellent professional development opportunities, can be found here: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/job-applicants/staff-benefits/

Closing date: 4 weeks after posting

Committed to equality and valuing diversity, we are an Athena SWAN Silver Award winner, a Stonewall Diversity Champion, a Disability Confident Employer and work in partnership with GIRES to promote respect for trans people.

The College is a proud signatory to the San-Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which means that in hiring and promotion decisions, we evaluate applicants on the quality of their work, not the journal impact factor where it is published. For more information, see https://www.imperial.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/about-imperial-research/research-evaluation/

The College believes that the use of animals in research is vital to improve human and animal health and welfare. Animals may only be used in research programmes where their use is shown to be necessary for developing new treatments and making medical advances. Imperial is committed to ensuring that, in cases where this research is deemed essential, all animals in the College’s care are treated with full respect, and that all staff involved with this work show due consideration at every level. http://www.imperial.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/about-imperial-research/research-integrity/animal-research/


In your application, please refer to Polytechnicpositions.com

FACEBOOK
TWITTER
LINKEDIN

baner1

baner10

baner11

baner12

baner14

baner2

baner3

baner4

baner5

baner6

baner8

baner9