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Postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience/cognitive science

100%, Singapore, fixed-term

ETH Zurich is one of the leading universities of the world with a strong focus on science and engineering. In 2010, ETH established the Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) in collaboration with the National Research Foundation (NRF) to do interdisciplinary research on pressing problems.

In collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Duke - NUS, the National Health Group (NHG), National University Health System (NUHS), and SingHealth, SEC is running a research program on Future Health Technologies (FHT). The FHT program addresses immanent health challenges by developing a future-oriented Mobile Digital Health Concept that tackles the increase in patients suffering from chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity and stroke), as a consequence of a rapidly aging population, with mobile digital technologies that cover the value chain from acute care to patient's private homes. 

Project background

Decline in cognitive ability is a growing world-wide phenomenon in elderly populations. It is estimated that 80,000 Singaporeans above the age of 65 will likely suffer from dementia by 2050. Cognitive decline is thought to adversely affect the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex of patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Indeed, patients suffering from MCI and AD experience a decline in cognitive functions (e.g., attention and memory) in addition to deficits in spatial and navigational ability. Critically, elderly patients with dementia are almost two times more likely to fall than patients without dementia. Here, poor spatial orientation and increased postural sway are among the top predictors for falls and injuries. In order to improve sensitivity for detecting fall risk, it is therefore imperative to adopt complementary methods that are capable of capturing and interactively combining changes in gait and deficits in navigational ability.

We seek a highly motivated post-doctoral researcher to join an interdisciplinary team of researchers investigating the relationship between cognitive decline, navigation ability and fall risk. The post-doctoral researcher will leverage advances in virtual reality (VR) and gaming technology (immersive and desktop) to develop a battery of tests that will expose the link between cognitive decline and deficits in locomotion and wayfinding. This project is a close collaboration with researchers from the Institute for Biomechanics (ETH Zurich), the Duke-NUS Medical School and the Duke-NUS Centre for Ageing Research and Education. The post-doctoral researcher will have a chance to integrate the newly developed VR tests as part of a large cohort study starting in June 2021. The cohort study will collect data on anatomical (e.g., skeletal material properties), functional (e.g., movement signatures), demographic and psychosocial characteristics of approximately 3000 ageing Singaporeans. Results of the VR tests will be considered in combination with the collected data in order to develop models for assessing and identifying individuals at risk of injurious falling and fracture. Finally, the postdoctoral researcher will have the possibility to validate the efficacy of the virtual reality tests in a subset of participants by comparing the results against neuroscientific and biochemical data.

The post-doctoral researcher will gain experience in cognitive science / neuroscience, virtual reality, gait analysis and working with older adults and people with dementia. Over the course of the research project, the post-doctoral researcher will also learn to work and manage a large research project, present in academic conferences and publish findings in scientific journals. The workplace for this position will be in Singapore at the SEC (and local working regulations will apply).

Job description

As a post-doctoral researcher in the FHT program, you will be responsible for:

  • Carrying out independent research for achieving the goals of the FHT program.
  • The analysis of neuroscientific and biomarker data.
  • Developing methods for automatic processing of large cohort data for assessing the relationship between fall risk, navigation ability and cognitive decline.
  • Assisting in the daily management of Module 1 - Falls and fractures within the FHT program including the co-supervision of PhD, MSc and BSc students, writing funding applications, preparing progress reports and disseminating results in academic conferences and journals.

Your profile

Candidates are required to have an PhD in neuroscience, biomedical science, biostatistics or related field. Experience collecting and analysing neuroscientific data (e.g., fMRI, PET, EEG) and a background in statistics and machine learning are essential for this position. Experience in programming (e.g., Java Script, C#) and working with virtual reality applications (e.g., Unity and Unreal Engine) will be considered a distinct advantage. It is expected that the candidates will have a high standard of written and spoken English and are willing to work as part of a team in an international environment. Funding is available for two years with a potential for extension. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. The earliest starting date for this position will be August 2021.

Singapore-ETH Centre

The Singapore-ETH Centre provides a multicultural and interdisciplinary environment to researchers working on diverse themes focussed on sustainable and liveable cities, resilient urban systems, and patient-centric healthcare. The centre is home to a community of over 100 doctoral, postdoctoral and professorial researchers working in three main programmes: Future Cities Laboratory, Future Resilient Systems, and Future Health Technologies.
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Interested?

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • A cover letter with a specific statement of your motivation for applying to the project.
  • Your CV including a list of publications and the name and contact information of 3 references.
  • A copy of your university transcripts.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information can be found on our websites:

Singapore ETH Center (SEC): https://sec.ethz.ch/
FHT: https://fht.ethz.ch/
ETH Institute for Biomechanics: http://www.biomech.ethz.ch
ETH Chair of Cognitive Science: https://cog.ethz.ch/

Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Victor Schinazi by email (scvictor@ethz.ch).

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