PhD Research Studentship - Computing with spiders’ webs – An inspiration for new sensors and robots

Faculty of Engineering

University of Bristol

Type of award: PhD Research Studentship

Department: Engineering Mathematics

Duration: 3 years

Eligibility: Home/EU applicants only A high 2:1 or 1st class honours degree in a relevant engineering and/or mathematics subject

Start date: March 2017

PhD Topic Background/Description

The PhD project is part of the Leverhulme Trust Research Grant Project “Computing with spiders’ webs – An inspiration for new sensors and robots.” This is a highly interdisciplinary 3 year research collaboration with Oxford University. It combines biological experimentation, simulation and mathematical modelling to understand the underlying computational principles observable in spiders’ webs, and to infer disruptive designs for novel flow and vibration sensor technologies.

The role of this PhD is to use experimental data from naturally spun webs to develop (i) mathematical models of occurring vibration patterns and (ii) a sophisticated simulation framework allowing us to understand, explore, and design morphological computation based sensor structures.

More information on the project can be found here:

Further Particulars

The recently established morphological computation group is led by Helmut Hauser and has currently 8 active members and is growing fast. We investigate various aspects of morphological computation in theory, simulations and by building prototypes. Current projects include learning through adaptive morphology, artificially growing robots, mechanically computing swarms, morphological computation based interfaces, and others. We have a range of international collaborations including substantial partnerships with top universities like Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial London and strong contacts in USA (Tufts, Harvard), Europe (EPFL, ETH Zurich, Pisa, etc.), as well in Japan (Tokyo and Osaka). We are working highly interdisciplinary, which is also reflected in our collaborations with researchers from Biology, Architecture, and Art.

The group is part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL, ), which is the largest centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK.

Candidate Requirements

A strong mathematical background in nonlinear dynamical systems and excellent programming skills are required. Furthermore, outstanding written and oral communication skills are needed.

In addition, experience in implementation of physical simulations, knowledge of the context of morphological computation and its implications in robotics, working experience in multidisciplinary projects, and experience in dissemination and public engagement is beneficial, but not essential.

We are looking for candidates that are proactive, creative and innovative.

Funding information

Funding applies to:
EU applicants (including UK)
Funding notes:

Scholarship covers full UK/EU (EU applicants who have been resident in the UK for 3 years prior to application) PhD tuition fees, a tax-free stipend at the current RCUK rate (£14,296 in 2016/17)

Contacts and how to apply

Academic contact:

Informal enquiries: Please contact Dr Helmut Hauser (

Administrative contact and how to apply:

For general enquiries, please email

Application Details

To apply for this studentship submit a PhD application using our online application system.

Please ensure that in the Funding section you tick “I would like to be considered for a funding award from the Engineering Mathematics Department” and specify the title of the scholarship in the “other” box below and the name of the supervisor, Dr Helmut Hauser.

Apply now