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2020 Science
2020 Science

The University College London and University of Oxford have recently received funding from the EPSRC Cross-Disciplinary Interfaces Programme (2020 Science: Mathematical and Computational Modelling of Complex Natural Systems) to collaborate with Microsoft Research Cambridge on a programme of research that will involve up to 17 post-doctoral Research Associates over a five year period.

The programme is focused on fostering the creation of a new generation of future scientific leaders – new kinds of scientists with the ability to lead the way in tackling fundamental challenges in science in areas of societal importance. At the heart of the programme is the development and application of computational methods, scientific computing, scientific software development and software engineering that will underpin the development of a new class of predictive models of multi-scale complex, natural systems.

The emphasis of the programme is on producing a new generation of highly computational natural scientists and tool builders able to apply novel approaches to tackle fundamental problems in natural science. The scientific remit of the programme is broad, covering a wide range of challenging problems in the computational modelling of naturally occurring systems, spanning biology and medicine and ranging from molecules to systems to organisms to ecosystems, and the interaction of each with their environment. Research problems will be deemed to be within the scientific remit of the programme both on their own merit as important scientific questions, but also by the degree to which it is necessary to address pressing generic problems in computational science. Throughout, a dominant emphasis will be on developing a new generation of modelling approaches and models, especially multi-scale and systems modelling encompassing discrete, continuous, stochastic, deterministic and hybrid approaches.

Click here for the main project website.


Three Research Associate posts have become available associated with the 2020 Science project. Each Research Associate post will be supervised by one of the principal investigators associated with it. All principal investigators are CoMPLEX members, which is UCL’s centre for interdisciplinary research in the medical and life sciences.

1) Motion Computation for the Life Sciences (contact: Prof Alan Johnston,

Developments in the sensing and imaging of dynamic biological events from cellular growth, division and movement to 3D shape changes in the human face have outstripped our capacity to measure and describe biological movement. Non-rigid changes in shape, the appearance and disappearance of features and noise associated with imaging techniques makes motion analysis of biological subjects especially difficult. The overall aim of this project is to develop new generic tools for motion analysis that can be successfully applied in a range of life science domains. We will particularly welcome proposals that aim to develop biologically inspired methods of motion analysis that can also serve as models of human motion processing.

2) Early eukaryotic evolution and early features of life (contact: Prof Andrew Pomiankowski,

This project will explore some of the events leading from the origins of living systems through to the emergence of complex eukaryotic life using mathematical and computational modelling. The projects will be co-supervised by Dr Nick Lane at UCL. Potential projects include: possible origins of natural selection on genetically encoded metabolism in a primordial environment; the coevolution of parasitic replicators – the ancestors of viruses – alongside true cells; the costs and benefits of multicellularity related to different modes of feeding (phagocytosis vs. osmotrophy) in which there is scope for cooperation and cheating over ‘common goods’; the evolution of mating types and true sexes in multicellular organisms coincident with the development of germ/soma differentiation; the transfer of mitochondrial genes to the eukaryotic nucleus and consequent loss of mitochondrial genes due to sexual conflict over gene expression.

3) Theoretical and Computational Immunology / Virology (contact: Prof Peter Coveney,

Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates working in theoretical and computational immunology and/or virology, to strengthen activities in this domain which involve collaborations with Microsoft Research in Cambridge and at the University of Oxford. Our current research programme uses rigorous computational methodologies to understand how complex natural systems, such as the immune system, are able to make life-saving choices over complex multidimensional decision spaces. As such, we are interested in developing multiscale modelling and simulation capabilities which span from the molecular to the cellular level and beyond and are able to connect the dynamical response of the human immune system to viral infections such as those originating from HIV.

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