One funded PhD student position in computational neuroscience: gait generation and gait transition in the salamander
The Biologically Inspired Robotics Group (BIRG) in the School of Computer and Communication Sciences at EPFL (Lausanne, Switzerland) has one open PhD studentship in computational neuroscience. The position is part of a project funded by the Swiss SystemsX initiative in systems biology (see in collaboration with Dr Thierry Wannier (Univ. Fribourg) and Prof. Jean-Marie Cabelguen (Univ. of Bordeaux).

The goal of this project is to use an interdisciplinary approach to decode the mechanisms of gait generation and gait transition in the salamander. The focus is on the locomotor circuits in the brain stem and the spinal cord, in particular on decoding the interplay of descending control and spinal rhythm generation in locomotor activities. Using an interdisciplinary approach that combines neurophysiology, mathematical theory of coupled oscillators, and numerical simulations, we will address various questions concerning the mechanisms of gait transition between swimming and walking in salamander.
The goal of the PhD thesis will be to develop models of the locomotor neural networks based on systems of coupled nonlinear oscillators representing the central pattern generator circuits of the salamander spinal cord. In order to investigate the feedback loops between the central nervous system, the body and the environment, these neural network models will be bidirectionally coupled with a representation of the salamander body, namely a 2D biomechanical simulation and a salamander-like amphibious robot.
The expected impact of this project is a better understanding of the functioning of the spinal cord and of the descending pathways during locomotion in vertebrates. In the long term, such knowledge is fundamental to help designing therapies for patients with spinal cord injuries (SCIs). In the short term, this study will significantly enhance our understanding of locomotor circuits in salamander. Furthermore, since salamanders have capabilities of spinal regeneration and locomotor recovery after SCI that are quite unique among vertebrates, understanding the mechanisms of intact locomotion is essential to be able to properly characterize how locomotor function is recovered.
Candidates need to have a Master degree. The ideal candidate for this position should have a strong mathematical background (e.g., in computational biology, mathematics, or physics), good programming skills, and be interested in using mathematical models and robots as tools to understand biology.
How to apply:
The application to the positions should consist of a motivation letter (explaining why you are interested in the project, and why you feel qualified for it), a CV, and a list of grades. Two (or more) letters of reference should be sent directly by the referees (e.g. professors who have supervised a research project) to Prof. Auke Ijspeert (emails are preferred). Applicants will also need to apply to (and be accepted by) one of the EPFL doctoral programs (see, the most relevant being “Computer, communication and information sciences” and “Neuroscience”.
Informal inquiries about the relevance of an application can be sent to (e.g. before submitting an application to the doctoral school), but responses can be slow because of a heavy schedule and a filled mail box.
Deadline and starting date:
Applications are invited and will be considered continuously until the position is filled. The ideal starting date is the 1st of October 2008 (or as soon as possible after that date).
Information concerning the type of research carried out by the group can be found at You should send your application and any inquiry by email to:
Prof. Auke Jan Ijspeert,
School of Computer and Communication Sciences
EPFL, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
INN 237
Station 14
CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Google Buzz Post to LinkedIn Post to Slashdot Post to StumbleUpon Post to Technorati