Comparative biomechanics of insect flight


 Dr Simon Walker

Dr Graham Askew

Project description

We are seeking a PhD student to join the Comparative Biomechanics group in the Faculty of Biological Sciences at University of Leeds. Insects are the most diverse of all animal classes, coming in an astounding array of shapes and sizes. Undoubtedly one of the reasons for their incredible success is their aerial ability, which evolved hundreds of millions of years before birds and bats. However, we still have a limited understanding of how differences in morphology translates to differences in flight behaviour. The aim of this PhD will be to use a comparative approach to understand how insects generate and control the movements of their wings during flight. The output will allow us to understand how natural selection has shaped the flight motor across different species, while also providing insight for bioinspired micro air vehicles that aim to replicate animal flight.

The successful candidate will record the wing and body movements of insects during free-flight using a newly built state-of-the-art setup. This incorporates up to ten high-speed cameras to capture multiple views of flying insects so that the corresponding high precision 3D movement can be calculated with using automated techniques. The project will produce the most comprehensive and extensive database of insect flight ever created and will serve as an invaluable future resource. Depending on the candidate’s background and interests this data can be taken in many different directions, including investigating insect flight dynamics, aerodynamics, neurological control, and mechanical modelling. The PhD is therefore open and will suit candidates from a wide range of fields, including zoology, biomechanics, neuroscience and engineering.

The PhD will be jointly supervised by Dr Simon Walker (lead supervisor) and Dr Graham Askew (co-supervisor). Please contact Dr Simon Walker ( for informal enquiries.

Supervisor websites:
Dr Walker
Dr Askew

Key benefits

This project offers and excellent opportunity for the PhD student to learn a range of state-of-the-art techniques covering both aspects of biology and engineering.

Entry requirements

Candidates should have, or be expecting, a 2.1 hons at Undergraduate level or above, in a relevant subject. If English is not your first language, you will need a recognised English Language qualification to be admitted onto any of the University's degree programmes

How to apply

Please apply online

Select “PhD in Biological Sciences” as the proposed course

Please include supervisor name and project title.  A research proposal is not required.  Please upload a CV and transcripts.

How to apply (email)

How to apply (phone)

+44 (0)113 343 8186