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Mathematical Analysis of Behavior

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Mathematical Analysis of Behavior

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June 17 - 30, 2018
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Explore Outstanding Phenomena in Animal Behavior
Jointly hosted by Janelia and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI), this program will bring together 15-20 advanced 
PhD students with complementary expertise who are interested in working at the interface of mathematics and biology. Emphasis will be placed on linking behavior to neural dynamics and exploring the coupling between these processes and the natural sensory environment of the organism. The aim is to educate a new type of global scientist that will work collaboratively in tackling complex problems in cellular, circuit and behavioral biology by combining experimental and computational techniques with rigorous mathematics and physics.

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Intense Two-week Program of Hands-on Lectures and Computational Work

Participants will be introduced to different experimental paradigms and will watch demonstrations of live lab experiments. Our project-based learning approach will involve: (1) identifying open problems in biology, from the dynamics of individual neurons and neural circuits to the behavior of organisms at the level of individuals and groups; (2) formulating mathematically and experimentally tractable questions; (3) addressing these questions by integrating tools from diverse research areas, such as statistical mechanics, thermal/fluid/solid mechanics, dynamical systems, algebraic topology, machine learning, and information theory. Instructors and selected Janelia researchers will present case studies to guide student projects. Participants will work in small groups on independent but complementary projects. Groups will present the objective of their project and their preliminary data/findings at the end of the first week, with final presentations at the end of the course. We especially encourage applications from female scientists and those who identify with groups traditionally underrepresented in science.


Ann Hermundstad, Janelia Research Campus/HHMI
Vivek Jayaraman, Janelia Research Campus/HHMI
Eva Kanso, Unversity of Southern California 
L. Mahadevan, Harvard University

Application Instructions

Participants Must Satisfy Minimum Requirements

  • Prerequisites (required)Advanced calculus, probability, and statistics, ODEs, dynamical systems, linear algebra (comfortable working with matrices and tensors)
  • Preferred (but not required)PDEs, programming experience (e.g. R/MATLAB/Python etc.), some exposure to physics at the level of a field theory (e.g. electromagnetism, relativity, hydrodynamics and elasticity, statistical mechanics).

To be considered, applicants must:

  1. Register and submit a brief statement about your research interests in our registration system
  2. Send a current CV (in pdf format) to
  3. Have your PI send a reference letter to
  4. Answer each of the following questions in 300 words or less (send as a pdf to
    • What physical phenomenon (biology, chemistry, physics, whatever) do you do think has been elegantly described by the use of an appropriate mathematical framework/approach (300 words or less)?
    • What specific phenomenon or biological process have you found fascinating or mysterious or otherwise worthwhile to read and think about (300 words or less)?
    • Describe a time that you benefited from working together with someone in a complementary field or research area (300 words or less).

Application deadline: February 1, 2018 (11:59 p.m. ET)