PhD Studentships in Information, Complex Systems and the Organization of Cognition

Daniel Polani


PhD Studentships


Adaptive Systems Research Group
Centre for Computer Science and Informatics Research
School of Engineering and Computer Science
University of Hertfordshire, UK
Contact: Daniel Polani (d.polani@...)


Application deadline 1 June 2020
Bursary GBP 15,285 p.a.


The Research

Increasingly, information (in the sense of Shannon) is identified as a
fundamental resource underlying all processes involved in
decision-making, all the way from the level of molecular (e.g.
protein) dynamics to the brain of higher animals, but also in
computational systems implementing Artificial Intelligence. All these
increasingly complex systems are driven by the need to organize
information in the appropriate way.

We investigate the questions that emerge from this observation and ask
what constitutes the fundamental principles according to which these
organizational processes take place, how more complex systems and
capabilities can emerge and self-organize seemingly spontaneously from
simpler ones through informational principles, and how this can be
utilized to ultimately create more intelligent and capable AI and
robotic systems.

We invite applications for our PhD studentships to investigate these
topics. You are interested in finding out the fundamentals behind the
of emergence and self-organization of cognition and their applications
to questions of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in a principled
way, typically based on information theory. This includes, but is not
limited to, modeling how to arrange the cognitive structure; how to
enable robust decision making and flexible control; how to discover
and reflect the inherent structure of the world in your agent’s
"brain" understanding the role of embodiment; how to create intrinsic
and "altruistic" motivations and much more.

There is the opportunity for you to expand these questions into
concrete robotics applications, including how to develop a more
natural, robust and powerful robotic control algorithm, or
alternatively towards biological and/or Artificial Life models, for
instance contributing to better understanding the basis for the
extraordinary success of organisms in a highly complex and seemingly
unstructured environment. Here, there is also the opportunity to
correspondingly explore fundamental questions of origin of life and
cognition from first principles.

You should have a very strong first degree; a very keen interest and
motivation in delving into and contributing to a fresh, stimulating
and fast-moving research area. An outstanding background in one of the
following or a related field is essential: Computer Science,
Computational/Cognitive Robotics, Physics, Mathematics, Statistics or
any other relevant discipline with a considerable
quantitative/computational component. In particular, you should
demonstrate excellent programming skills in at least one major
computer language. A mathematical/numerical background would be highly
desirable. Knowledge in at least one of the following fields would be
a strong plus: probability theory, information theory, differential
geometry, control, dynamical systems, data modelling/neural network

The envisaged research will take place in the vibrant and enterprising
environment of the SEPIA (Sensor Evolution, Processing, Information
and Actuation) subunit of the Adaptive Systems Research Group in the
School of Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire; for
interested candidates, there will also be the special opportunity to
collaborate with the School’s successful humanoid robot RoboCup team,
the Bold Hearts, and with additional actively funded projects.


Research in Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire has
been recognized as excellent by the latest Research Assessment
Exercise, with 50% of the research submitted being rated as
internationally excellent or world leading.

The University of Hertfordshire provides a very stimulating
environment, offering a large number of specialised and
interdisciplinary seminars as well as general training and researcher
development opportunities. The University is situated in Hatfield, in
the green belt just north of London. Hatfield is close to Central
London (less than 25 minutes by direct train to Kings Cross), with
convenient access to Stansted, Luton and Heathrow airports, and, via
the nearby historic town of St. Albans, also to Gatwick airport.

For informal inquiries and more information about the topics, please

Prof. Dr. Daniel Polani
Email: d.polani@...


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The short-listing process will begin on 1 June 2020.

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