[Comp-neuro] PhD positions at the University of Exeter: Controlling noise effects in models of excitable cells

Tsaneva-Atanasova, Krasimira K.Tsaneva-Atanasova at exeter.ac.uk
Sat Dec 17 13:29:52 CET 2016

About the award
This project is one of a number which are funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2017. The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which, is currently £14,296 per annum for 2016-2017, research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.
Main supervisor: Prof Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova<http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/mathematics/staff/kt298> (University of Exeter)
Co-supervisor:  Dr Jan Sieber<http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/mathematics/staff/js543> (University of Exeter)
Co-supervisor:  Dr Joël Tabak<http://medicine.exeter.ac.uk/about/profiles/index.php?web_id=Joel_Tabak-Sznajder> (University of Exeter)
Location: University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Exeter, Devon
Project Description:
This is a project that combines biological modelling and general mathematical analysis of the influence of noise on multiple-timescale systems. It will give the student the opportunity to work on open mathematical questions and see their results applied in experiments on living cells.
Many types of cells such as neurons, heart and hormone-releasing cells generate impulses of electrical activity, organized as single spikes or bursts of impulses. In cells of the pituitary gland – the master hormonal gland of the body – the features of electrical activity patterns determine how much hormone is released into the circulation.  Hence, understanding how the characteristic features of electrical activity arise is crucial to understanding how these cells function, and how they may malfunction in disease. Mathematical modelling and analysis techniques have proven very successful in helping unravel fundamental mechanisms controlling the behaviour of excitable cells.
Electrical activity is driven by the interactions between ion channels of the cell membrane, which produce noisy electrical currents. The mathematical models of electrical activity thus contain random and deterministic parts, which typically appear as separate terms (e.g., the deterministic drift and the Brownian-motion induced diffusion in stochastic differential equations). In experimental practice this distinction is not as clear. For example, ion channels in cells with electrical activity generate noisy signals, driving systematically the electrical and chemical activity in the cell, which operate also on several time scales. It is still unclear how this randomness influences electrical activity in real cells.
This PhD project will investigate how one can use control to identify the systematic (deterministic) component of trajectories in dynamical systems with random inputs (such as ion channel noise) that operate on two or three different time scales (such as spiking or bursting cells).  A first goal to separate a systematic, approximately periodic, signal without knowledge of the period using control and geometric methods in a reconstructed phase space. Preliminary investigations with noise on a single time scale interacting with a two-timescale oscillation (spiking) have shown that this is in principle possible. It is an open question how this can be generalized to periodic behaviours with a more complicated geometry (such as bursting), interacting with noise effects that occur on two time scales. Another open question is how the geometric control and noise identification is related to extended time-delayed feedback, which creates a reference signal from a geometric time series of past outputs.
Entry requirements:
Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK.   Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Master’s degree.  Applicants with a minimum of Upper Second Class degree and significant relevant non-academic experience are encouraged to apply.  All applicants would need to meet our English language requirements by the start of the  project http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/.  The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes; however up to 9 fully-funded studentships across the DTP are available for EU/EEA applicants not ordinarily resident in the UK.   Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.
Application deadline:   11th January 2017
Value:  3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,296 per year.
Duration of award:      per year
Contact: Doctoral College: 01392 722737 doctoral.college at exeter.ac.uk<mailto:doctoral.college at exeter.ac.uk>
How to apply
 Click here to apply<http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/money/funding/application/>
Please be aware you will be asked to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/.
The closing date for applications is midnight on 11 January 2017.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter between 13 February and 17 February 2017.
If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email Doctoral.College at exeter.ac.uk<mailto:Doctoral.College at exeter.ac.uk>
or phone +44 (0)1392 722311.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.
During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:
• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.
Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.

Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova
Professor of Mathematics for Healthcare
Department of Mathematics
Living Systems Institute
University of Exeter
Exeter, Devon, EX4 4QF, UK
tel: +44 (0) 1392 723615
email: k.tsaneva-atanasova at exeter.ac.uk<mailto:k.tsaneva-atanasova at exeter.ac.uk>
web: http://emps.exeter.ac.uk/mathematics/staff/kt298

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