Sunday, 31 July 2016

Job Advert for a Post-Doctoral Research Associate: Mapping cortex evolution through mathematical modelling

Closing Date: Thursday, September 1, 2016 - 12:00

Figure 1. Illustrating the different cortex shapes produced by different animal species. Taken from J. De Felipe. 2011. Front. Neuro. 5:29.
Applications are invited for a 24-month fixed-term post of Research Assistant in St John’s College Research Centre at St John’s College, University of Oxford. The post involves working on a research project entitled ‘Mapping cortex evolution through mathematical modelling’ funded by the St John’s College Research Centre and led by Professor Zoltán Molnár, Professor Philip Maini, and Dr Thomas Woolley. The appointee will take up the post on November 1st or as soon as possible thereafter. The post is full-time and is for 24 months. The appointment will be on the University’s Grade 7 for Academic and Academic-related staff, currently ranging from £30,738 - £41,255 per annum.

Our project proposes to develop and understand a mathematical model for the differentiation of neurons from earlier pluripotent progenitor cell populations. This framework will allow us to map all possible evolutionary pathways of the cortex enabling us to quantitatively and qualitatively highlight multiple possible divergent evolutionary trajectories. Further, by comparing these theories with data we will construct a novel categorisation of different species, and understand the high diversity of cortex development, thus generating an impact in the field of neurobiology. Finally, through applying our framework to pathological cases, we will predict mechanistic links between neuron production failure and resulting phenotypes such as microcephaly, polymicrogyria syndromes and lissencephaly syndromes.

There is no application form. Candidates should email a covering letter, a curriculum vitae with details of qualifications and experience, and a statement of current research interests and publications to Applications should be in the form of a single PDF file. Candidates must also provide the names of two academic referees who should be asked to email their references to the same address. Both applications and references should reach the College no later than noon on 1st September. Late applications will not be accepted. Interviews will be held in Oxford on 16th September or if appropriate via Skype at the same time.

The appointee will hold or be close to completing a PhD in mathematics or in a relevant field of quantitative biology. Research expertise in the field of inference is desirable.
The appointee is expected to take the lead in delivering the programme of research, namely:

1. Construct a mathematical model of differentiation from progenitor cells to neurons.
2. Qualitatively map the possible outcomes of the neuron developmental model in terms of the population distributions and time to full differentiation.
3. Categorise species data using the map.
4. Quantitatively parameterise the model using Bayesian inference techniques.
5. Highlight current gaps in data.

The candidate is expected to work closely with neurobiologists through extended visits to Professor Zoltán Molnár’s laboratory, where they will learn about the various cell lineage tracing methods in detail. Equally, they will attend pertinent biological group meetings.

Finally, they are expected to lead the creation of an interdisciplinary network of St John’s neurobiologists, psychologists and collaborative sciences.

The candidate will contribute to preparing findings for publication and dissemination to academic and non-academic audiences; therefore, excellent communication skills are essential, and an excellent record of academic publication commensurate with stage of career is expected.

St John’s College is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

More information about St John's College can be found here.
Full job advert can be found here.
Further particular can be found here.


Saturday, 9 July 2016

A Mathematician's Holiday - Problem 7: Fix the Hotel Rooms.

Pen and paper is all that is required. We also use blow up rubber ring to demonstrate the solution.
Having got to our hotel rooms Dan, Will and I found that our water, electricity and gas supplies had all been damaged in the fire. Being the helpful souls that we are can we connect each of the utility supplies to each room without crossing the utilities?
Figure 1. Problem set up.
This is a classic mathematical problem known as "The Three Utilities Problem". Critically, it is known to be unsolvable on the flat sheet of the paper. However, the hotel we would be staying in would be three-dimensional and, thus, we are asking the audience to extend their ideas beyond the flat surface.

Note that we really do not go into why the solution is impossible on the flat paper. The reason is because the proof of impossibility depends on some deep ideas from topology. However, the interested reader can find the proof here.

If we add in another utility, can we still solve the problem on a torus, or doughnut?