Conferences 2018

Our lab members have attended a fairly large number of conferences in the year 2018. Here is a short summary of them.

Starting with me, I restricted my travel to a bare minimum due to family and child-care responsibilities. I did go to one a three-day meeting on Marine biology in Jan 2018 in France, followed by a DBT organised event on Nobel prize series in Rashtrapati Bhavan in early Feb 2018. After that, I have declined all conference invitations – both Indian and international. I will probably continue to limit my travel for at least another year.

Priya Iyer, an DST postdoctoral fellow, presented her work on parential care at a CNRS Jacques Monod conference “Sex uncovered: the evolutionary biology of reproductive systems” at Roscoff, France in April 2018.

Jitesh Jhawar (PhD student) attended and presented his work on fish schooling behaviour at a Conference on Collective Behaviour at ICTP, Trieste, Italy in May 2018. Interestingly, at this meeting, he met Dr Danny Raj, an Inspire Faculty Fellow at Chemical engineering department of our own institute! The conversations between them at Trieste has now led to a collaboration and Danny is a coauthor on a manuscript that we plan to submit very soon!

Krishnapriya Tamma (SERB supported National Postdoctoral Fellow), Sumithra Sankaran (PhD student) and Sabiha Majumder (a former PhD student and currently a postdoc Zurich) organised an Oral session titled “Multistability and Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Abrupt Transitions in Terrestrial Ecosystems: Theory, Application and Management” at the Ecological Society of America 2018. It featured many talks by a diversity of speakers!  In the same meeting, all three of them also gave talks based on their own research work on ecosystem resilience carried out in our lab.

Krishnapriya Tamma also attended the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) conference in Malaysia.

Sumithra Sankaran (PhD student), on the same trip to ESA 2018, attended Gordon conferences on “Unifying Ecology Across Scales Based on Individuals, Currencies or Theory”

Akanksha Rathore, a PhD student using machine learning techniques for collective behaviour, attended a Winter School on Quantitative Systems Biology: Learning and Artificial Intelligence at ICTP, Italy.

That’s it! Happy 2019!!


Lab trip to Makalidurga

We made a short one day trip to Makalidurga (pronounced maakaLi-durga, where durga means fort in Kannada). We left early morning 6 am’ish and returned by 4 pm. Was great fun!

Above are some pictures! In pictures taken from above the hills – notice the contrast between blue skies and unmistakable brownish atmospheric layer – the latter most likely being the smog in/around Bengaluru city.


Sumithra Sankaran defends her PhD thesis!!!

I am super delighted to share this — somewhat belated — news that Sumithra Sankaran has defended her PhD thesis on 7th December 2018. Sumithra’s thesis was on understanding how local interactions, spatial patterns and ecosystem stability are related. Needless to say, Sumithra gave a fabulous presentation and the examiners (including external examiner Prof Partha Sarathi Dutta from IIT Ropar, Department of Mathematics) were super impressed.

It is worth noting – especially for prospective students to our lab – that Sumithra was formally trained in zoology and wildlife biology. Because of her exceptional interest in theory, she did a thesis in theoretical ecology involving fairly involved mathematical calculations, e.g., mean-field models, stochastic differential equations and their analyses via Fokker-Planck equations, cellular automata models. Finally, testing her predictions of theory with empirical data – which required another suite of skills in analysing remotely-sensed data, statistics, and making sense of results in light of theory!

Do check some of her papers here, here, here and here. There are two more being prepared.

Congratulations to Sumithra – its been so much fun collaboratingworking with you – which I hope we will continue!

Sumithra Sankaran showing a slide with spatially explicit model of patch dynamics.


Research project position for a duration of 5-6 months in the departments of Chemical engineering and CES [Update: Position filled]

UPDATE: The position has been filled.

Applications are invited for a research project position for a duration of 5-6 months in the departments of Chemical engineering and Centre for ecology, IISc Bangalore, India (Deadline for application: 06 Nov 2018). 

Broad research area: Understanding the agent-level interactions that give rise to the observed collective behaviour.

Project details: Project will be computational in nature; Project will involve developing optimization based methods to identify underlying interactions between a group of agents (like a school of fish or traffic) from the data of their motion and collective dynamics

About the project supervisor:

Dr Danny Raj M, INSPIRE faculty, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, IISc [dannym@iisc.ac.in– contact]

Website (for more details): http://dannyrajm.wixsite.com/danny-raj-m

The work will be done in collaboration with Dr Vishwesha Guttal, Associate Professor, Centre for ecological sciences, IISc Bangalore.https://teelabiisc.wordpress.com

Eligibility: Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, Biological sciences; Final year projects for students in a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree

Skills desirable: Comfortable with building algorithms and coding (preferably in MATLAB; other packages like Python, Mathematica are also welcome); Penchant for analysing and understanding non-linear dynamics of systems

Details of salary: Candidates joining as project assistant or associate would get a salary commensurate of their experience and qualification; Candidates applying here for their final year projects are not eligible for a salary

Deadline for application: 06 Nov 2018

Contact: Interested candidates should email their resume to dannym@iisc.ac.in with the subject RESEARCH PROJECT POSITION- REG, stating why they are interested in the project (in brief) and how long they can commit to it. [The resume should detail any projects or interesting ventures undertaken that would be relevant for the post being offered].

Other details: An interview or test, will be held with the interested candidate following which the decision to offer the position will be made. The position is extendable based on the performance of the individual.


New paper by Jaideep Joshi: Demographic noise and cost of greenbeard can facilitate greenbeard cooperation

We are delighted to announce a new paper from the lab!

Jaideep Joshi and Vishwesha Guttal, 2018, Demographic noise and cost of greenbeard can facilitate greenbeard cooperation, Evolution, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.13615

This is the second paper of our former PhD student Jaideep Joshi. Fantastic work, involving some hard-core analytical and simulational work to address an interesting problem on the evolution of greenbeard cooperation.

Congratulations to Jaideep!

While you are here, you must also check the previous paper of Jaideep on how mobility promotes cooperation, published last year in Plos Computational Biology.

 


Advise: On requesting recommendation letters

Many students ask me to write recommendation letters for a variety of purposes, like internship abroad, summer school and most importantly – graduate schools. It’s an important part of our job as academics to encourage younger and aspiring students. Therefore, in general, I am happy to write supporting letters if I know you ‘sufficiently well’. Here are some general tips to follow when you request me (or more generally it may apply to others whom you approach) to send recommendation letters – this information will help me to write better-supporting letters.

  • First, do write a short note requesting if the person you think is suitable to write a letter is willing to do so. When you do so, state the purpose of your application, attach your cv and mention the deadline.
  • In general, write at least a few weeks ahead of the deadline and clearly state what is the deadline. If the deadline is very short – you can still write, but be aware that many mentors may decline even if they feel you are a fantastic candidate.

Once I have agreed to send you the letter:

  • If it’s a graduate school application season, send a list of university, department, their respective deadlines, the program (PhD vs Masters), etc all in a single email.
  • Do send an updated CV every time you ask for a letter – even if I had sent a letter last year for a similar purpose. I would like to know how your cv has improved since last time, so that any modifications to the letter can be done.
  • Provide as much information on what is the recommendation for? And any other relevant information about the application. For example, if you wrote a proposal or statement of interest that is not confidential – share it with me. Share any pdf/link to details of what the application is asking. Sometimes, some advertisements are aimed for specific candidates with certain background (for ex: this conf is aimed for physicists interested in biology, or vice versa). Do point out them to me. A generic letter won’t help the selection to committee decide whether you are suitable.
  • A short note on any specific points that you would like me to highlight about you. It could be about your project/work done with me, about your grades, a new publication/work of yours that I am unaware of, or anything that you think will help your application. If you are applying to unusual programs (e.g. Masters in conservation biology but your background is in mathematics), tell me reasons for the same. Such information is very important and useful for me to write a good supporting letter.
  • Do not hesitate to remind me whether I have submitted the letter. Check the status at least a week, and a few days before, the deadline.
Some places (in Europe I think) as for recommendation letters to be sent via student herself/himself. As a general rule it’s not a good idea to have the letters sent via your own application; I think it actually weakens it (certainly in the way we write, and how they read). Always ask if there is a way professor can send it directly to them.
Finally, let me know the outcome of your application because I am curious to know, and am also interested in making sure you succeed. Moreover, its a basic courtesy to inform the outcome (even if its negative) to someone has invested time in writing a letter of recommendation. A negative outcome may also help your referee to improve the letter the next time you ask him/her.

Teaching a Statistics course

This semester, I will be venturing into teaching statistics course along with my colleague Prof Kavita Isvaran. This is going to be quite exciting because I have only taught mathematical ecology (and its variants, basic to intermediate to advanced) so far.

Of course, Kavita has been teaching this course on Quantitative ecology, with a focus on both research design and statistical inference, for almost a decade. This course has undoubtedly transformed the quantitative skills of our students and they way they design and analyse their PhD thesis projects.

This year, the main change to the course is as follows: we will cover less material but will add depth (the breadth will be added in a second course in Jan 2019). While Kavita will teach Research design in the first half of the course, I will teach basic statistics – starting from probability distributions to point estimations and linear regression – in the second half of the course. We really want to ensure people understand basics of what they are doing – including associated math and programming.

We will be assisted by our joint PhD student Aakanksha to conduct tutorials in math, R, grading assignments, etc.