University of Bristol: Research Associate in Bird Flight

Posted on September 21, 2021
Expires: October 11, 2021

Location: Bristol, UK

Salary:  £34,304 to £38,587 per annum

Closes: 10th October 2021


Overview of the role

This research position will explore the biomechanics of how birds can sense airflow over their wings using techniques from mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Birds’ feathers vibrate as air flows over them, stimulating mechanosensory neurons in the skin, providing information about the airflow to the central nervous system. This role aims to explore what aerodynamic information is available to birds to help control their flight and understand how birds’ wings can act both as aerodynamic surfaces and as a distributed airflow sensing array.

This role is part of a larger multi-disciplinary, international project involving biologists and neuroscientists at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA and McGill University, Montreal, Canada. As part of the project you will have the opportunity to regularly visit these institutions to assist with research.

The position will be based in the Bio-Inspired Flight Lab (, in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. The lab investigates aerodynamic, sensing and control aspects of animal flight and how we can use bio-inspiration to improve engineered technologies, particularly in the area of small-scale unmanned air vehicles (UAVs). You will be joining a vibrant and supportive community of cross-disciplinary researchers spanning, aerospace and mechanical engineering, life sciences, robotics, and more. You will also be part of the Bristol Flight Lab (, the University of Bristol’s centre for multi-disciplinary aerial robotics research, which brings together over 40 researchers, students and support staff in the theme of aerial robotics. Support includes regular one-on-one meetings, training and teaching opportunities, and encouragement to pursue outreach activities.

What will you be doing?

This role will involve using engineering techniques to explore how birds sense airflow and will involve using:

  • High-speed video and computer image analysis to measure wing motion during bird flight.
  • Vibration engineering approaches to measure feather vibrations during wind tunnel testing of isolated wings.
  • Dynamics analysis approaches to relate airflow to feather vibration.

You should apply if

  • You have strong experimental skills.
  • Have a PhD in a field related to Engineering, Physics, Maths, Life Sciences or closely related discipline, or equivalent experience.
  • You are highly motivated, willing to learn, able to take initiative and significant responsibility in a leading-edge international research project.

Additional information

For informal queries please contact Dr Shane Windsor,

To apply visit

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