The Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior at its sites in Konstanz and Radolfzell offers an international, interdisciplinary, and collaborative environment that opens up unique research opportunities. The goal of our basic research is to understand and predict animal decision-making in the natural world.

The Max Planck Department for Collective Behavior would like to fill the following position as soon as possible:

Postdoctoral Researcher (m/f/div) on using bio-inspired robots to understand individual decision-making in fish school

The position is limited to a maximum of 2 years and will be located at the University in Konstanz.

Project description:

For centuries, engineers have turned to biological systems to seek inspiration for constructing functional, flexible, and efficient robots. Over the decades, biologically-inspired Roboticists have matured into a significant branch in engineering. Recently, biologists and interdisciplinary teams are using robots as viable platforms to understand animal behaviour. This strategy offers a suitable alternative to traditional biological methods, which have severe limitations, including the feasibility to minimize confounding influences and isolate effects (e.g. the effects of the experiment and the experimenter on the study animal), and other limitations imposed by the behaviour of the animals, etc... For example, a fish-like robot can greatly help biologists collect in-situ data on fish schooling behaviour with limited interferences from human or other factors, explore potential hydrodynamic benefits among individuals excluding psychological effects, and understand mechanisms in collective motion by including the robot in the loop of collective animals. 

In this project, the candidate will construct and employ a variety of bio-inspired robots, including physical, numerical, and virtual robots, to study individual decision-making, sensory-motor control in collective motion, swarm robotics, and other systems. They would work closely with and/or directly contribute to developing the immersive virtual reality platform with virtual robots and the flow tank platform with physical robots. The experimental component of this project will be controlling those bio-inspired robots acting as neighbours to interact with the live focal system to transfer or receive specific information (e.g. visual or hydrodynamic clues).


We are seeking an exceptional and highly motivated researcher with a background in one or several of the following topics:

- Advanced design and control of mechatronic systems

- Advanced control of robotic fish

- Robot operating systems (ROS, ...)

- Sensor fusion

- Modeling and control of under-actuated, multi-body systems

- computational fluid dynamics (CFD)

- particle image velocimetry (PIV)

- Deep/reinforcement learning

- Evolutionary game theory

You must be fluent in English (spoken, written), with an established publication record. You should be highly interested in researching novel concepts in biomechanics and bio-inspired control applied to understand the individual decision in collectives. Postdoctoral researchers are expected to support PhD researcher supervision and conduct research both individually and in group projects. We aim to publish our research in the highest-impact journals (Nature Communications, PNAS, …).

We offer:

We offer excellent research infrastructures (i.e. Virtual reality system for animal behaviour, flow tank system, Platforms for swarm robots, latest PIV system, …). We also offer national and international interdisciplinary cooperation possibilities with top researchers from Robotics, Biology and Biomechanics (i.e., MPI IS campus Stuttgart, TUM, ETH, UNSW, Peking University, ...).

Candidates will be based in the Department of Collective Behaviour (see https://collectivebehaviour.com/) at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior based on the campus of the University of Konstanz in the historic city of Konstanz in Southern Germany.

The University of Konstanz is one of the nine “elite universities” in Germany. The University has almost 12,000 students and is situated on a hill overlooking Lake Constance, the Island of Mainau and Mainau Forest. The campus is a short cycle or bus ride from the city centre. Konstanz has a large and well preserved old town (Altstadt) and a vibrant day and nightlife, including many museums, galleries, and parks. Our nearest airport is Zurich, approximately 50 mins drive / 1hr5mins direct train. The Max Planck Institutes and the University of Konstanz focus on excellence in research, and the successful applicant will benefit from outstanding infrastructure, opportunities for training and a highly collaborative and international research environment.

All of our appointments are for one year initially, with the possibility of renewal up to 2 years for Postdoctoral positions.  The salary is made in accordance with your qualification and the collective agreement for the public service (TVöD-Bund).

The Max Planck Society endeavors to employ more severely disabled people. Applications of severely disabled persons are expressly welcome. The Max Planck Society strives for gender and diversity equality. We welcome applications from all backgrounds. For details see http://www.mpg.de/equal_opportunities

For further information regarding this position, please contact Liang Li lli@ab.mpg.de.

Are you interested?

This position is available immediately and will be open until filled. Send the following material by email with the email subject 'postdoc application November 2021' to lli@ab.mpg.de; please prepare compact files, or provide a link to an online repository.

- Motivate your application for this position in 1-2 pages

- CV

- List of publications

- List of three references


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