Research Associate

Job Description

We have an exciting opportunity for a motivated and enthusiastic individual interested in biology and machine learning to join the BBSRC funded project ‘Unlocking the complexity of organismal colour patterns using artificial intelligence’ as a Research Associate. The project will make use of recent advances in machine learning and computer vision to develop a ‘next generation’ software toolkit for extracting and analysing high dimensional colour pattern information from images. New pipelines will be developed allowing users to hierarchically segment biological structures from images and then characterise complex colour pattern variation among samples for downstream analysis. These tools will be developed using a large dataset of bird plumage colour photographs (>200K images of museum specimens) that captures complex animal colour pattern variation and is representative of other bioscience image datasets. Ultimately the new tools will be integrated into a user-friendly open-access software package with wide applicability across the biosciences. This is an excellent opportunity to work on a project bridging biological and computer science research and to develop cutting-edge research tools to unlock new fundamental and applied research areas involving colour pattern phenotyping using AI.

This Research Associate post will be supervised by Dr Christopher Cooney at the University of Sheffield and embedded within the world-class Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Research Cluster. You will lead the development and testing of artificial neural network models for computer vision for capturing complex, hierarchical patterns in image data and be responsible for implementing these models in a user-friendly interactive software package.

The project has strong collaborative links with other Sheffield academics including Dr Gavin Thomas (School of Biosciences), Dr Steve Maddock and Prof Jungong Han (Department of Computer Science). The project also involves close collaboration with international partner Dr Julien Renoult (University of Montpellier). Together, we provide a highly supportive environment with access to excellent development resources and cutting-edge facilities across multiple departments and institutions. This includes scope for an extended (~1 month) research visit to the University of Montpellier. The post therefore offers excellent opportunities for career development and network building of the successful candidate.


We’re one of the best not-for-profit organisations to work for in the UK. The University’s Total Reward Package includes a competitive salary, a generous Pension Scheme and annual leave entitlement, as well as access to a range of learning and development courses to support your personal and professional development.

We build teams of people from different heritages and lifestyles from across the world, whose talent and contributions complement each other to greatest effect. We believe diversity in all its forms delivers greater impact through research, teaching and student experience.

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