PhD Studentship: Welfare assessment of rhesus macaques: from field observation to computational models of brain networks

Vacancy Reference Number
Closing Date
17 Jan 2020
UKRI PhD studentship rates
Newcastle University Biosciences Institute Framlington Place Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH
4 years
Project Description Biologists working with vertebrates are ethically and legally obliged to optimise the physical and emotional welfare of the animals they use. The welfare of non-human primates involved in neuroscience experiments is of particular concern. Non-human primates perhaps have the greatest potential to experience human-like suffering due to their taxonomic proximity to humans. Moreover, neuroscience experiments on non-human primates often last for many years, increasing concerns about potential cumulative effects of experimental and husbandry procedures. Methods currently used to assess non-human primates’ welfare are inadequate. The goal of this project is to develop new behavioural indicators of primate welfare that are properly validated and practical for welfare assessment in research and industrial settings. The student will use a unique combination of behavioural, neuroimaging (MRI) and computational approaches to reach this goal. The project is well suited to candidates who are interested in applying a multi-disciplinary approach to assess animal welfare, ranging from behavioural observation to computation modelling of brain connections. It requires the willingness to work with rhesus macaques in the lab, and in the field, and to engage with statistics, computational approaches and programming. The student will be trained by a team comprising animal welfare scientists, primatologists, neuroscientists, physicists and computational scientists. If you are interested in this PhD, you are encouraged to contact Dr Colline Poirier ( to learn more about the project and the research and training opportunities provided.

Further Information

Supervision team:
Dr Colline Poirier, Bioscience Institute, Newcastle University
Prof. Joanna Setchell, Dpt of Anthropology, Durham University
Dr Yujiang Wang, School of Computing, Newcastle University
Prof. Melissa Bateson, Bioscience Institute, Newcastle University


Applications should be made by emailing with a CV (including contact details of at least two academic (or other relevant) referees), and a covering letter – clearly stating your first choice project, and optionally 2nd and 3rd ranked projects, as well as including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project(s) and at the selected University. Applications not meeting these criteria will be rejected.
In addition to the CV and covering letter, please email a completed copy of the Additional Details Form (Word document) to A blank copy of this form can be found at:

Funding Notes
This is a 4 year BBSRC studentship under the Newcastle-Liverpool-Durham DTP. The successful applicant will receive research costs, tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 for 2019-20). The PhD will start in October 2020. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years in order to receive full support. Please note, there are 2 stages to the application process.
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Pacing behaviour in laboratory macaques is an unreliable indicator of acute stress, 2019, Scientific Reports, 9: 7476

Validation of hippocampal biomarkers of cumulative affective experience, 2019, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral reviews, 101: 113-121

Biochemical and biological validations of a faecal glucocorticoid metabolite assay in mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx), 2019, Conservation Physiology, 7(1):coz032

Can biomarkers of biological age be used to assess cumulative lifetime experience? (2019) Animal Welfare, 28: 41-56

An Open Resource for Non-human Primate Imaging, 2018, Neuron, 100: 61-74

Impending extinction crisis of the world's primates: Why primates matter, 2017, Science Advances, 3: e1600946

Pacing stereotypies in laboratory rhesus macaques: implications for animal welfare and the validity of neuroscientific findings, 2017, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral reviews, 83: 508-515

Within brain area tractography suggests local modularity using high resolution connectomics, 2017, Scientific Reports, 7: 39859

Editorial Practice at the International Journal of Primatology: the Roles of Gender and Country of Affiliation in Participation in Scientific Publication. International Journal of Primatology 39(6): 969-986

Contact Details

Dr Colline Poirier (