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Job id: 078525. Salary: £42,405 - £49,785 per annum, including London Weighting Allowance.

Posted: 09 November 2023. Closing date: 08 January 2024.

Business unit: IoPPN. Department: Forensic & Neurodevelopmental Sciences.

Contact details: Dr Dafnis Batalle.

Location: Denmark Hill. Category: Research.

Job description

We have a unique opportunity for a Post-doctoral Research Associate to make a leading contribution to the neuroimaging data analyses of the Brain Health in Gen 2020 project, an exciting new prospective, multimillion pound longitudinal study aiming to assess how the prenatal mother-baby environment, including exposures such as maternal COVID-19, impacts upon early brain development and later childhood outcomes.  

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic we identified a need to understand what, if anything, fetal exposure to maternal infection does to brain development. We therefore used advanced MRI methods to begin a study of brain development in fetuses and newborns who were in the womb during the pandemic. Brain Health in Gen 2020 allows us to continue this work, to carry out in-depth analyses of this unique dataset and follow-up these children as they enter primary education. It also means we can expand our original sample to capture the likely wide range of outcomes of children who were in utero during the pandemic, both on an individual and population level. This project is unique for its interdisciplinary nature, combining expertise from clinical psychiatry, psychology, paediatrics, brain imaging, immunology, and neuroscience; and for its multiscale approach, spanning in-depth brain investigation in small cohorts through to large-scale population measures. 

The successful candidate will join our world class academic team in developmental neuroscience at the Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences (FANS), at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), closely collaborating with the Centre for Developing Brain (CDB), in the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences (BMEIS). This role will focus on retrospective data analyses of neonatal multi-modal MRI using the state-of-the-art MRI acquisition and processing protocols used by the developing Human Connectome Project (dHCP). The postholder will also support the acquisition and analysis of new MRI data from this cohort of children, including high resolution fMRI data acquired  on the 7T MRI scanner in the London Collaborative ultra-high field system (LoCUS) facility at St Thomas’ Hospital.  

The successful candidate will have a background in neuroimaging research and/or computational analysis, preferably with diffusion and/or functional MRI data. They will also have experience of working in a multidisciplinary team as they will be responsible for supporting other researchers and PhD students. They will develop novel scientific questions in brain development, the emergence of structural and functional connectivity (and dynamics), and lead on the analysis of specific aspects of translational science depending on their areas of expertise. There will also be opportunities to contribute to departmental teaching. We provide a nurturing environment and support early career development, and thus we also welcome early career researchers considering applying for grants and personal fellowships. 

This post will be offered on a full-time, fixed term contract for 2 years, with the possibility for a 2-year extension (contingent on funding). 

This is a full time  post – 100% full time equivalent

Key responsibilities

  • To analyse data using state-of-the-art computational techniques.   
  • Identify road-blocks in data processing and analysis, and identify solutions (with the study leads and relevant team members).
  • Help establish robust data processing pipelines and data archiving for use by the wider research team.
  • To ensure that milestones and deliverables are on time – and that scientific findings are being disseminated to key stake holders.
  • To develop and lead on one area of scientific analyses. 
  • Writing technical reports of the progress of the study.
  • Teach in the courses delivered by the department.
  • Co-supervise MSc Research Projects.
  • To integrate with the wider Institute and Brain Health in Gen 2020 network. 

The above list of responsibilities may not be exhaustive, and the post holder will be required to undertake such tasks and responsibilities as may reasonably be expected within the scope and grading of the post.  

Skills, knowledge, and experience 

  • Essential expertise in neuroimaging data analysis using diffusion and/or functional MRI data. 
  • Expertise in programming with a relevant language (e.g., Python, bash, Matlab, R) 
  • Desirable (but not essential) experience analysing pediatric/neonatal data. 
  • A related PhD (for grade 6), or close to be finished (for grade 5) is essential.* 

Essential criteria  

1.      PhD awarded or near completion in a research-based field of relevance (e.g. psychology, neuroscience, physics, engineering). 

2.      Understanding of dMRI and/or fMRI analyses techniques and brain-behaviour relationships. 

3.      Advanced data analysis and programming skills. 

4.      Ability to write complex reports and/or scientific publications. 

5.      Emergent track record of peer reviewed journal publications commensurate with level of career. 

6.      Excellent interpersonal and organisational skills and ability to work as part of a multidisciplinary team. 

7.      Ability to prioritise tasks effectively and meet deadlines. 

Desirable criteria

1.      Ambition to apply for research grants and/or fellowships. 

2.      Advanced knowledge of typical neurodevelopment, and neurodevelopmental conditions. 

3.      An interest in both MRI advanced analysis methods and neuroscience. 

Please note that this is a PhD level role but candidates who have submitted their thesis and are awaiting award of their PhDs will be considered. In these circumstances the appointment will be made at Grade 5, spine point 30 with the title of Research Assistant. Upon confirmation of the award of the PhD, the job title will become Research Associate and the salary will increase to Grade 6.