[Comp-neuro] PhD studentship in computational neuroscience (gait generation and gait transition in the salamander) at EPFL, Lausanne Switzerland

Auke Ijspeert auke.ijspeert at epfl.ch
Mon Aug 18 18:07:00 CEST 2008

*One funded PhD student position in computational neuroscience: /gait 
generation and gait transition/**/ in the salamander/

The Biologically Inspired Robotics Group (BIRG, http://birg.epfl.ch/) 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 http://www.systemsx.ch/) 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 


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 http://phd.epfl.ch/), the most 
relevant being "Computer, communication and information sciences" and 

Informal inquiries about the relevance of an application can be sent to 
auke.ijspeert at epfl.ch <mailto:auke.ijspeert at epfl.ch> (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 from today, 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 http://birg.epfl.ch/. You should send your application and 
any inquiry by email to:

Prof. Auke Jan Ijspeert <http://birg.epfl.ch/page27899.html>, 
auke.ijspeert at epfl.ch <mailto:auke.ijspeert at epfl.ch>
School of Computer and Communication Sciences
EPFL, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
INN 237 <http://plan.epfl.ch/?room=INN237>
Station 14
CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
WWW: http://birg.epfl.ch/

Prof Auke Jan Ijspeert 
SNF (Swiss National Science Foundation) Assistant Professor
School of Computer and Communication Sciences, EPFL

EPFL, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne
Station 14
CH 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland 

Office: INN 237     Tel: +41 21 693 2658,    Fax: +41 21 693 3705
www: http://birg.epfl.ch             Email: Auke.Ijspeert at epfl.ch

Adjunct Assistant Professor,
Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California

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