Research Fellow: Biocomputation, Mental Health and Wellbeing

University of Hertfordshire - School of Computer Science

FTE 1.0 FTE working 37 hours per week

Duration of Contract: Fixed term contract 5 years from October 2017

Qualifications required:
Very strong PhD degree in a quantitative research-oriented discipline, examples are computer science, mathematics, physics and neuroscience;  excellent programming skills in at least one major computer language (essential), and very strong mathematical background, with particular emphasis on areas such as computer algebra, Krohn-Rhodes algebraic automata theory and language theory, discrete/continuous/constructive dynamical systems theory, group theory, algebraic topology, information theory, probability theory and statistics, and mathematical methods for computational intelligence. Background in computational neuroscience, including processing and analysis of EEG data, especially EEG microstates, is highly desirable. Experience writing high-quality research publications (essential) and grant applications (desirable), as well as excellent communication skills (essential). Successful history of working in multidisciplinary teams (highly desirable).

Description of the research activity and area:
Algorithms and Biocomputation are growing areas of research excellence at the University of Hertfordshire. This Fellowship targets the development and application of our novel computational and mathematical methods (e.g., automata-, language-theoretic and algebraic methods; computational mechanics and Krohn-Rhodes computational algebraic biology) to biological systems. The Research Fellow will support ongoing and future work characterizing the neurodynamical spatio-temporal structure of human mental states led by Professor Chrystopher L. Nehaniv and external collaborator Dr Elena Antonova (Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London). Our current BIAL Foundation grant focuses on using EEG microstate ‘grammars’ to distinguish different mental states in expert meditators.  EEG microstates are quasi-stable maps of electric potential landscapes of short duration, typically classed in a small number of discrete types analogous to ‘letters’ of an alphabet. The tendency for simple EEG microstate transitions between certain pairs of these discrete types has already been shown to characterize clinical populations (people with schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s vs. healthy controls). Our current research targets finer understanding of richer temporal neurodynamical structure and patterns, using these novel computational methods, toward harnessing their potential eventually for applications in Health and Wellbeing as a diagnostic tool for different clinical populations. The Fellow will reinforce the established collaboration with KCL, supporting validation and development of our methods toward their eventual application in clinical diagnosis and mental illness prevention, as well as in promotion of wellbeing.

The Fellow will be expected to publish in high-impact journals and present conference papers together with Professor Nehaniv and Dr Antonova, to contribute to writing grant applications to national and international funding bodies [e.g., Wellcome Trust, EPSRC/BBSRC/MRC, European Commission, and other funding agencies], and contribute to REF outputs of the School of Computer Science.  

In accord with the CONCORDAT for professional development of researchers, the candidate may be afforded the opportunity to undertake a limited amount of appropriate teaching (upon mutual agreement).

The Royal Society / Wolfson Biocomputation Research Laboratory at the University of Hertfordshire has a long history of interdisciplinary innovation in computational methods for systems biology and neural systems, as well as applications of bioinspired-methods to other fields. It enjoys close interdisciplinary links to the Adaptive Systems and Algorithms Research Groups, whose interests include mathematical computer science, compilers, security, networks, artificial Intelligence robotics, artificial life, language acquisition, human-robot interaction, etc., and have labs equipped with humanoid and non-humanoid robots, as well as 3D printing facilities. External research connections to UK, European and international partners (e.g. University of California, Berkeley; Univ. Debrecen and Renyi Institute, Hungary; Sardex, Italy; etc) are supported through numerous research council and EC-funded collaborations and projects.

Skills and experience needed:
The Fellow will have established him/herself as an independent researcher, capable of establishing a programme of research activity within the scope of the project. S/he will have excellent oral and written communication skills in both spoken and written English and a track record of publications in high impact journals. The Fellow will be expected to build capacity in the area of Biocomputation and participate in attracting external funding, previous success being a desirable attribute. S/he should be able to establish good working relationships, and work closely with members of the Centre for Computer Science and Informatics Research and the School of Computer Science, at the University of Hertfordshire and with partner organisations as appropriate. The fellow should have knowledge of research methodology appropriate for the subject area and knowledge of appropriate databases for the discipline and ability to conduct literature searches in the discipline using appropriate electronic resources.  

Contact Details:
Informal enquiries can be made to Professor Chrystopher L. Nehaniv, email: C.L.Nehaniv@herts.ac.uk tel:  +44 1707 284470

The University offers a range of benefits including a pension scheme, professional development, family friendly policies, child care vouchers, a fee waiver of 50% for all children of staff under the age of 21 at the start of the course, discounted memberships at the Hertfordshire Sports Village and generous annual leave.