The Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development and Centre for Cognition, Computation and Modelling, Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck University of London, are offering 2 3-year fully funded PhD studentships to be supervised by Professors Denis Mareschal and Richard Cooper.
The projects are part of the Mobile Technology for Infant Social-Cognitive Neuroscience (MOTION) Interdisciplinary Training Network for Innovative Infancy Research, a European Commission ITN project exploring infants’ and toddlers’ actions, gaze direction, and brain activity as they actively explore the world around them. ITNs are international collaborative research and training networks involving several University and private sector partners. The MOTION ITN involves The Donders Institute in the Netherlands, Uppsala Child and Baby Lab in Sweden, Birkbeck College in London and The University of Lancaster in the UK, The University of Milano-Bicicca in Italy, all as University partners, and Twente Medical Systems in the Netherlands, Qualisys AB in Sweden, Artinis Medical Systems in the Netherlands, and Smart EYE AB in Sweden as private sector partners. Finally, the Centre of Expertise in Pedagogical Support in Day Care and School at Karel de Grote Hogeschool in Belgium are participating as education sector partners.
Project Grant Abstract
Recent international reports emphasise that the first three years of children’s life have more impact on their future outcomes than any other period during their life. It is therefore essential that we have a thorough understanding of early social and cognitive development. In the past, experimental research studied infants and toddlers within restricted, artificial laboratory contexts. However, only by studying children who are actively engaging in natural interaction with their social and physical environment, can we acquire ecologically valid, robust information about their social and cognitive development. The MOTION project will train a new generation of highly-skilled experts in the field of early development. New advances in wearable and wireless technologies now provide us with a unique opportunity. We are able to literally "unleash" the children we study – to free them from cables and constraints associated with the previous research methods. The primary scientific aim of the MOTION project thus is to leverage these new technological advances to study infants’ and toddlers’ body movements, gaze direction, and brain activity as they spontaneously and actively explore the world around them. MOTION will develop, produce and commercialize new tools to study early development in close cooperation between industry and academic partners. Innovative research tools will be used to investigate infants and toddlers engaged in natural interaction with their social and physical environment and to gain a deeper understanding of early development.
Birkbeck University of London is particularly responsible for developing the following projects:
(1) Development of embodied decision-making in toddlers during play: This project will use precise kinematic and wireless EMG analyses of reaching movements to reveal the internal processes of decision-making in infants and toddlers involved in sharing games in natural settings such as playgroups. The scientific purpose is to explore how cognitive level decision models can be linked to motor competition processes during intentional reaching.
(2) Computational modelling of goal-directed action selection in infants: This project will combine motion capture and computational techniques to explore competing theoretical accounts of the development and control of goal-directed action sequences. The scientific purpose is to extend existing computational accounts of action selection to incorporate a mechanism for grouping actions performed over time into functional (i.e., goal-directed) sequences, and to evaluate those extensions against empirical findings.
While the successful candidates will be based at Birkbeck in London, as part of their training, candidates will have the opportunity to spend several months at one or two of the other network partners.
The successful candidates will have Masters-level training in Psychology, Cognitive Science, Cognitive Neuroscience or Computational Modelling. The ideal candidate will have both empirical testing and computational modelling experience. However, we recognize the rarity of such a combination of skills and will consider applicants with strong background in one area and a willingness and aptitude to learn and develop in the other area. As the empirical component of the project involves working with children and/or infants, the successful candidate should have prior experience of working in child development context, or a demonstrable interest in developing such skills. Because the projects involve working with minors, all successful candidates will need to undergo a DBS (police) check prior to their appointment.
Salary for each post around £36,293 per annum depending on the family circumstances of the candidate. The posts are full-time fixed term contract for 3 years. The salary award will be dependent on whether the candidate has a family and whether they join the pension scheme. The appointment will be subject to a probationary period of twelve months. Birkbeck provides 31 days paid leave, flexible working arrangements and other great benefits.
Important mobility constraints apply: Successful applicants cannot have resided in the UK for more than 12 months in the past 36 months. The position must be taken up no later than October 1st, 2018. Applications should be submitted through http://www.bbk.ac.uk/study/2018/phd/programmes/RMPPSYCH, clearly stating that they wish to be considered for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD positions. The initial closing date for the positions will be April 6th, but applications will continue to be considered until suitable candidates have been appointed.
Informal enquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Procedural enquiries concerning application to the Department of Psychological Sciences PhD programme should be directed to Ida Akhtar (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Birkbeck is an equal opportunities employer and encourages applications from all candidates irrespective of gender, ethnicity, age, disability, religious belief and sexual orientation.