PhD position in Auckland

7 October 2019 by Remco Bouckaert

Keywords: Bayesian computation, BEAST, Computational Biology, Phylogenetics, Cultural evolution, Historical linguistics

Research project introduction:

A fully funded PhD scholarship in computational evolution is available in the Centre for Computational Evolution (CCE) at the University of Auckland. This will involve work on developing next generation models for inferring evolutionary history, including applications to the cultural evolution of languages. This research builds on prior work in the CCE developing Bayesian phylogenetic analysis tools (BEAST 2) and the application of these tools to diverse areas, including the evolution of culture and language (Bouckaert et al (2012), Science, and Bouckaert et al., 2018, Nature Ecology and Evolution). The PhD position comes with a stipend of $NZ27,500 per annum and payment of enrolment fees. There is no teaching requirement associated with the stipend.

Research project objectives:

The research will include the design and development of new mathematical and computational models using Bayesian phylogenetic inference and the multi-species coalescent implemented in the popular BEAST 2 software package. The successful candidates will work with an international team of computational biologists, evolutionary biologists and linguists to both develop new methods and test them on a number of exciting data sets. The student will focus on developing new computational models for genetic and linguistic language evolution implemented in the BEAST 2 software package.

Criteria for succesful applicant:

The successful applicants will have a strong background in a quantitative subject (such as Computational Biology, Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, Physics or similar), an understanding of Bayesian statistics, some experience of coding and ideally have had some exposure to, or at least a strong interest in, phylogenetic methods or linguistics. The exact nature of the work will depend on the strengths and background of the successful candidates.

Other information:

The successful candidates will work with an international team including Dr Remco Bouckaert, Prof Alexei Drummond, Prof Quentin Atkinson (University of Auckland), Prof Russell Gray (Max Planck Institute, Jena) and Prof Craig Moritz (ANU), as well as expert collaborators with knowledge of specific linguistic datasets at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and molecular data sets at the Australian National University. For more information and to express interest for the PhD candidate positions, please send a cover letter, your CV and list of grades to Dr Remco Bouckaert (

Host institution

The University of Auckland is New Zealand’s leading university ranked 85th in the world in the 2019 QS survey. The University of Auckland has a strong international focus and is the only New Zealand member of Universitas 21 and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities – international consortia of research-led universities. Auckland is ranked 3rd out of 231 world cities for quality of living in the 2019 Mercer Quality of Living Survey.