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University of Zurich Two PhD positions in Energetic aspects of brain size evolution

by Ed Hagen last modified Sep 28, 2012 11:28 AM expired
Two three-year PhD positions are available at the Anthropological Institute and Museum (University of Zürich) to work on a broad comparative study of the energetic aspects of brain size evolution. The project „Energetic aspects of brain size evolution: Cognitive vs. physiological strategies for survival“ is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. We have shown recently that, to allow an increase in brain size, either total energy metabolism must be increased, or the organism reduces energy allocation to other functions such as production or locomotion (but not digestion). In the current project, we will investigate links between ecology, lifestyle, and brain size in a broad sample of mammals. Ultimately, the results of this project will enhance our understanding of the hominin evolutionary history.

One PhD project will focus on behavioral flexibility in dealing with periods of food scarcity (cognitive buffering) in mammals (i.e. by stabilizing energy input). The other PhD project will focus on physiological adaptations to buffer energy shortages during lean or cold periods, (i.e. by reducing energy expenditure). You will collect data in museums and zoos, compile data from the literature, and test various predictions using „phylogenetically informed“ statistical methods. 
You will be working in an international, multidisciplinary team of primatologists and paleoanthropologists at one of Europe’s leading institutions in this field. Salary is according to the regulations of the Swiss National Science Foundation.
Applicants should excel in both practical and academic skills, have a Master’s degree in biology (e.g. zoology,  physical anthropology, evolutionary or computational biology), and be fluent in English. Advanced skills in statistical data analysis and, for the second project, previous experience with dissections are required.

Candidates should send a letter of application, a curriculum vitae, a transcript of study records, contact information for two academic referees, and a half-page summary of the Master’s thesis (all combined to a single PDF) to Karin Isler at no later than October 23, 2012. Start of the project is planned for January 1, 2013. 

For further information, please contact Karin Isler (

Dr. Karin Isler
Anthropologisches Institut und Museum
Universität Zürich-Irchel
Winterthurerstrasse 190
CH-8057 Zürich

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