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ICTP PhD Opportunity

Scholarship on olfactory search in a turbulent environment available

ICTP PhD Opportunity
ICTP PhD Opportunity


ICTP's Quantitative Life Sciences (QLS) section seeks applications from students interested in a PhD scholarship to study olfactory search in a turbulent environment.

The application deadline is 15 June 2021, with a starting date of 1 November 2021.

The position is funded by the European Union Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network CoPerMix (grant number 956457) on Control, Prediction and Learning in Mixing Processes within the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Commission (

CoPerMix is a consortium of high profile universities, research institutions and companies located in France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy and the UK, and will train 15 PhD students in total (Early Stage Researcher, ESR).

The PhD student will be based at ICTP and will be enrolled in the Physics PhD programme of the University of Trieste, Italy, under the supervision of QLS scientist Antonio Celani.

Description of the project: Odor-guided navigation is inherently difficult because turbulent air flow mixes the relevant chemical signal with clean air and with other background signals, resulting in a highly dynamic and complex odor landscape. Besides the immediate interest in animal behavior, understanding the principles of olfactory search and navigation stands at the basis of applications ranging from the localization of the source of dangerous substances to ecological control of vector-borne diseases. In the first stage, the problem of locating an odor source will be framed as a Reinforcement Learning problem and optimal solutions will be sought. This will also require answering the question about which is the most efficient representation of the olfactory landscape that the searcher must adopt for a given goal. Then we will turn to the problem of telling apart and reaching several distant sources which emit different odor blends, and we will also address the problem of cooperative olfactory search by many interacting agents.

For more information about this offer, including eligibility and how to apply, please visit