Opportunities

Opportunities to join the Agile Systems Lab

(Prof. Sponberg's group in physics and biological sciences @ GT)

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Specific positions will be posted below as they arise.

However, we always welcome inquires from undergrads, graduate students, and postdocs with backgrounds in neuroscience, physics, physiology, biomechanics, or engineering interested in studying agile systems!

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Postdoctoral position available in neuroethology, electrophysiology and quantitative experimental neuroscience (fulltime w/ benefits, start date flexible but summer or fall 2019 preferred).

The Agile Systems Lab is seeking a neuroscience postdoc to investigate origins of precision timing in motor systems. We are especially interested in connecting sensory and descending neuron representations to the resulting motor program and behavior. The system will focus on agile flight of hawk moths, where we have recently recorded a comprehensive, spike-resolved motor program. The postdoc will take the lead in tracing the structure of this motor program back into the CNS and connecting it to sensory representations. The work will be collaborative with students and postdocs in the lab that already work on computational neuroscience, the mechanics of flight, and comparative sensory neuroscience. While the general topic is set (already funded) there is some flexibility in how to tackle this problem including the specific circuits and modalities to consider, which can be tuned to the applicants strengths. Extensions from this topic into biomechanics, quantitative behavior, organismal biophysics and controls are possible for ambitious postdocs looking to develop their own research program. Applicants from a broad range of fields will be considered, but candidates with experience in neuroethology, electrophysiology, and computational neuroscience  are especially encouraged to apply. The postdoc will need to be eager to design and conduct experiments as well as analysis but training to complement their background will be provided. The lab group is primarily experimental. Funding is available for at least two years, with a third year extension likely.
Interested candidates should send a CV, and 1-2 paragraphs about background, goals, and research interests to me via email (sponberg@gatech.edu). Questions about the position can be directed to me as well.

A full-time research technician position is available (40 hrs/week + benefits, available immediately until filled).

The lab tech's responsibilities include ~10 hours/wk of lab support (ordering, inventory, procedures) and animal care (primarily ordering and caring for insect colonies). The remaining time is dedicated to research activities in collaboration with the PI. This position is an ideal 1-3 year position for a recent post-bac student interested in exploring research in neuroscience, biomechanics or biophysics in preparation for graduate school. Candidates interested in engaging with the research of the lab and participating in their own research project are preferred. A science-based bachelors degree is required and some lab experience is highly preferred. The specific background matters less but the ideal candidate is interested in exploring research along the lines of what the lab does.

Applicants should send a C.V. and/or resume along with a short ~1-2 paragraph statement of interest to me (sponberg@gatech.edu) directly.

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Contact Simon

Who should apply and what to expect

The science of movement is inherently interdisciplinary. No one field holds all the answers. We seek students from a variety of backgrounds from physics to biology to engineering. Emphasis will be placed on creating a strong interdisciplinary team where each individual has established research domains, but benefits from the multidisciplinary environment. Students with interests and skills in any of the following may find a good fit with the lab:

  • Physics of living systems
  • Neuroethology
  • Comparative biomechanics -- especially motor control
  • Active soft matter
  • Muscle physiology
  • Electrophysiology -- especially in intact, behaving animals
  • Computational neuroscience or neurophysics
  • Experimental fluid mechanics
  • Classical dynamic systems
  • Control theory and system identification of biological/bio-inspired systems
  • Robophysics and experimental robotics

How to apply

The first step is making contact. E-mail Simon. Please include a brief description of your background and research interests.

Specific opportunities & funding

The Sponberg Lab has regular openings for graduate students and postdocs. Please refer to the postings at the top of this page, but things may be a little out of date so feel free to contact Simon. Some of the specific areas of interest we are looking for are the following:

  1. The originals of precision in the timing codes for motor control especially during fast, agile behaviors.

  2. Coordination and organization of the motor program across many muscles during locomotion, with an particularly emphasis on information theory, controls, and system identification.

  3. The multiscale physics of muscle -- muscle function during perturbed, periodic motion and the properties of the contractile machinery that enables multifunctionality.

All students and postdocs are encouraged to write individual fellowships. If you  are interested in teaming with the lab to target an such an opportunity, please contact me. Other opportunities and sources of funding may also be available.

Affiliated academic programs

Professor Sponberg can formally advise graduate students in the following programs:

Advising is also possible through the other engineering and science schools at Georgia Tech on a case-by-case basis. Undergraduates from any discipline are welcome if their interests align with the lab and they are eager to contribute.

Foundations

We have three conceptual foundations: Neuroscience -- the computations and mechanisms underlying how animals acquire, process and act upon information, Biomechanics -- the analysis of animals’ mechanics and the physical structures than enable movement, and Muscle Biophysics -- the study of how muscles transform the electrical signals of the nervous system into force, strain, and work. These foundations are tied together by the theme of studying the Physics of Living Systems.

What animals do we work with?

Much of the lab’s work relies on invertebrates, particularly insects, because of their robust behaviors, tractable electrophysiological signals (e.g. discrete patterns of neural and muscular activation), general accessibility, and the fundamental idea that despite being quite tiny systems, they realize a wide diversity of forms and behaviors. While future work will likely take advantage of these systems, the lab is not organism specific. We apply the principle of using systems that are advantageous in their extreme behavior, experimental tractability, or comparative perspective (Krogh, 1929). As we move towards a maturing of the integrative science of movement at the whole organism level, we will turn to whatever system allows us to best understanding the physics and physiology of locomotion.

Our tools and techniques

  • High-speed imaging and real-time motion capture
  • Multielectrode recording rigs for small brain and descending neuron recordings
  • Sharp electrode recording rigs for single neuron recordings
  • Virtual realty behavior arenas including electrophysiology
  • Low-speed wind tunnel for small animal flight in laminar and unsteady flows
  • Micro-implantation and instrumentation facilities
  • Electrophysiology rigs for tethered preparations
  • Dynamic material characterization of muscles
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Computational resources
  • Time-resolved, small angle x-ray diffraction through living muscle tissue
    (via trips to the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Labs)