Department of Bioengineering and Department of Computing
Job Title:
Research Associate
Job Family:
Academic & Research Family, Level B
Reporting to:
Dr Aldo Faisal
Key working relationships:
Academic staff, research staff and students, other
technical staff in the Department
Summary of the post
We seek a Research Associate for a 2 year Human Frontiers in Science funded project
between Aldo Faisal (Imperial College London), Carlos Ribeiro (Champalimaud Institute,
Lisbon) and Michael Dickinson (University of Washington, Seattle) investigating the
interplay between genes, computation and behavior in value-based decision making of
Drosophila melanogaster - focusing on mechanisms and algorithms of decision making
during foraging. We are seeking candidates with experience in computational
neuroscience/neuroeconomics/foraging theory or psychophysics/experimental model
behavior experiments and related disciplines. Strong analytical skills (Matlab) are
essential. The post will be based in London. Applicants should have (or soon to be
awarded) a PhD (or equivalent) in a discipline relevant to neuroscience and publications
in high-quality journals.
Behavior represents the most complex organismal phenotype and is generated by the
interplay between an experimental model’s brain, its body, and the external world.
Through recent advances in both experimental and mathematical techniques, it is now
finally possible to link top-down theoretical analyses of behavioral function with bottom-up
mechanistic explanations at the level of genes, cells, and neural circuits. This proposal
aims at merging new theoretical approaches based on foraging theory with start-of-the-art
neurogenetic and quantitative behavioral methods to study foraging behavior in the fruit
fly, Drosophila melanogaster.
The most novel aspect of this project is that we want to combine rigorous models of
experimental model behavior with quantitative behavioral approaches and the genetic
and cellular manipulations that are uniquely available in Drosophila. Although the
behavioral neurobiology of Drosophila has a rich and successful history, we believe that
our approach will break new ground because we focus on ecologically relevant behavior,
which we will address using a combination of novel quantitative ethometric approaches
and mathematical models. Our basic philosophy is to develop an array of behavioral
arenas that reconstitute salient features of the experimental models’ ‘decision landscape’
within the laboratory, under conditions in which it will be possible to apply sophisticated
molecular tools to study neuronal function and manipulate and measure parameters
required to test informative models of the decision-making process.
The post offers the possibility to conduct cross-disciplinary work, enabling experimentally
trained candidates to learn and apply advanced modeling techniques or theoretically
included candidates to conduct experiments or a mixture of both. Data-collection
involving high-throughput behavior tracking experiments in wild-type and mutants is
already underway as part of the project and the researcher may conduct further
experiments or focus on data analysis and modeling or a mixture of both.
Key Responsibilities:
 Driving a research agenda focussing on a fundamental biological question in a goaloriented manner
 Depending on the candidate, either mathematical or numerical modelling of Drosophila
decision making behaviour or design and execution of Drosophila behavioural
experiments or a mixture of both
 Drafting of scientific manuscripts and grant proposals
 Research presentations at scientific conferences and meetings
 Good research practice
 Active participation in laboratory group meetings
 Active collaboration with other researcher and research groups at Imperial and
throughout the UK and US
 Training of new starters as required
 Assist other researchers on troubleshooting techniques/methods as required
 Organisation of work output to meet research project deadlines and to support
research project objectives. Adjustment of priorities as necessary to accommodate
new workloads or change in circumstances or problems
 Effective communication with other members of technical, academic and research
staff, and external contacts
 Making recommendations and actively contributing to the continual improvement of the
operation of the laboratory
To observe and comply with all College policies and regulations, including the key
policies and procedures on Confidentiality, Conflict of Interest, Data Protection,
Equal Opportunities, Financial Regulations, Health and Safety, Imperial
Expectations (for new leaders, managers and supervisors), Information
Technology, Private Engagements and Register of Interests, and Smoking.
To undertake specific safety responsibilities relevant to individual roles, as set out
on the College Website Health and Safety Structure and Responsibilities page
Job descriptions cannot be exhaustive and the post-holder may be required to
undertake other duties, which are broadly in line with the above key
Imperial College London is committed to equality of opportunity and to eliminating
discrimination. All employees are expected to adhere to the principals set out in its
Equal Opportunities in Employment Policy, Promoting Race Equality Policy and all
other relevant guidance/practice frameworks.
Applicants are required to demonstrate that they possess the following attributes.
Imperial Expectations
These are the 7 principles that Imperial leaders, managers and supervisors are expected
to follow:
1) Champion a positive approach to change and opportunity
2) Communicate regularly and effectively within, and across, teams
3) Consider the thoughts and expectations of others
4) Deliver positive outcomes
5) Encourage inclusive participation and eliminate discrimination
6) Support and develop staff/colleagues to optimise talent
7) Work in a planned and managed way
Educated to a minimum of a Doctorate level, or in the process of nearly completing a
Doctorate, or equivalent in Neurobiology/Neuroscience, Computational Neuroscience,
Mathematical biology, Physics, or related field
Experience and knowledge:
Demonstrable experience in Neurobiology/Neuroscience or Mathematical modelling
Demonstrable experience working at the interface between theory and experiments
in the natural sciences
Demonstrable experience of working in a laboratory at a similar level, preferably in
an institute of higher education
Knowledge of modern, sophisticated data analysis techniques
Knowledge of health and safety issues in a laboratory environment and experience
of enforcing compliance
Experience organising own work schedule with minimum supervision
Skills and abilities:
Excellent problem solving abilities
Excellent verbal and written communication skills with the ability to produce clear
and concise written material
Strong analytical skills
Self-motivated, innovative, enthusiastic and pro-active
Self-confident and articulate with the ability to communicate confidently and
effectively with College staff at all levels as well as students
A pro-active approach to health and safety
Good IT skills including spreadsheet and database applications
Able to perform effectively under pressure of deadlines with good personal
organisation and time management skills
Collaborative and able to build and sustain working relationships
Willingness to travel, possibly internationally on occasion, to conferences and
meetings, and collaborators
Willingness to undertake any necessary training

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