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PhD position in biology to work on interdisciplinary social learning project

PhD position in biology to work on interdisciplinary social learning project
The aim of this project is to 1) categorize types of social learning, and of conformist learning among other types of social learning; 2) perform experiments on conformity in the fruit fly; 3) to explore the molecular, cellular, physiological and psychological mechanisms involved; 4) develop a model to explore the populational consequences of conformist learning. Our ultimate goal is to unravel whether human conformist learning has been built on mechanisms that already perform a similar function in other species, or whether on wholly new mechanisms that are specific to humans. The successful applicant will work with members of the three below cited institutions, at the interface of these three approaches to reconcile and integrate the experimental approaches used in our labs in order to establish common protocols and approaches.

Work context

This PhD position, set within an interdisciplinary collaboration between Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST,, Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique (EDB, and Centre des Recherches sur la Cognition Animale (CRCA,, will undertake a comparative study of conformist learning in humans and non-human species (Drosophila and Poeciliid fish), with the ultimate goal of better understanding the deep nature of human conformity. The PhD grant is funded by the CNRS in the framework of its mission for transverse and interdisciplinary initiatives (MITI) project Prime|80, which encourages and supports interdisciplinary projects between CNRS institutions.


The project will require an unusually demanding degree of commitment from the successful candidate but offers high upside potential in the form of close interaction with a high-visibility international team of research scientists.

Mandatory requirements:

  • Master degree in evolutionary biology, behavioral biology or neurobiology or a related field.
  • Willingness to work in an interdisciplinary environment and interact on a regular basis with economists, political scientists, psychologists…. This is a central requirement for this project.
  • Good communication skills in English (oral and written).
  • Good problem-solving skills, ability to work autonomously, team player.
  • Willingness to participate in the daily maintenance of the fly stocks.
  • Be creative, well organized, patient, motivated, work hard.


Skills, which are beneficial but not essential :

  • Programming skills, e.g. Python or R.
  • Good knowledge of statistics.
  • Experience in planning and conducting behavioral experiments.

Constraints and risks

This project offers multidisciplinary academic training in behavioral ecology, with some elements of neurobiology as well as exposure to economics and other social sciences. The collaboration with the named project partners is subject to contract. 

Additional information

The principal investigators of the project are Etienne Danchin, EDB (, Guillaume Isabel, CRCA (, Sabine Nöbel (, IAST and Paul Seabright, IAST ( Informal enquiries about the project can be directed to all of them.

Candidates should send their CV, copies of their graduation and Master ́s degrees (including final grades) and 2 full reference letters.

See also

It is important that all candidates apply via the CNRS website. CNRS does not accept recruitment of candidates that did not use their system.

General Information

Workplace: Toulouse
Date of publication: Friday, May 31, 2019
Scientific Responsible name: Paul Seabright

Type of Contract: PhD Student contract / Thesis offer
Contract Period: 36 months
Start date of the thesis: 1 September 2019
Proportion of work: Full time
Remuneration: 2 135,00 € gross monthly