Subject areas: Biophysics, Nanotechnology, Engineering, Experimental Soft Matter Physics

A fully funded PhD studentship is available to work under the supervision of Dr Giorgio Volpe on the experimental development of a model system to study the physics of foraging based on the use of bioinspired nanomachines capable of autonomous movement.

When locating one or multiple targets in space within time constraints, adopting the right search strategy can make the difference between succeeding and failing within the allocated time. At different scales, this applies to nanorobots navigating through living tissue for diagnostics and therapy, to animals foraging in natural landscapes and to (human and robotic) rescuers during search-and-rescue operations in disaster zones. In the absence of environmental cues and with limited cognitive abilities that could drive the motion of the searching agent, random searches represent established search patterns in homogeneous topographies. The scope of this PhD studentship is to experimentally determine what is the best collective search strategy for a swarm of active agents in realistic search scenarios, where physical obstacles and barriers are present, under the constraint of minimal or no information exchange. For this study, in particular, bioinspired colloidal self-propelling nanomachines will be developed and employed as a versatile and scalable model system for macroscopic swarms.

The successful applicant should have or expect to achieve a Masters-level degree (1st or 2:1 or equivalent for European degrees) in a relevant subject, e.g. Physics, Engineering, Natural Science or Materials Science, and an interest in working at the interface between biophysics, soft matter and photonics. The successful applicant will demonstrate strong interest and self-motivation in the subject, good experimental practice and the ability to think analytically and creatively. Good computer skills as well as presentation and writing skills in English are required. Previous experience in experimental soft matter and programming are desirable.

To apply in first instance, please email a motivation letter, an up-to-date CV and contact details for 2 referees to Dr Giorgio Volpe (g.volpe@ucl.ac.uk) who may also be approached for informal enquires. Ideal starting date: March 2019. The application deadline is 31 January 2019 but the position will be closed as soon as a suitable applicant has been selected.

Please note that due to funding restrictions only UK/EU citizens are eligible for this studentship.

Suitable candidates will be required to complete an electronic application form here. Any admissions queries should be directed to Dr Jadranka Butorac (j.butorac@ucl.ac.uk).

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