PhD studentship in Agri. Tech (3 positions)

By 9th July 2019 No Comments

PhD studentship in Agri. Tech (3 positions)

Post summary

Applications are invited for 3 platform PhD positions funded by the Science Foundation Ireland VistaMilk “Dairy by Design” Research Centre. VistaMilk is a multi-disciplinary Research Centre that focuses on Agri. Tech, bringing together the disciplines of ICT and Agriculture. The research centre consists of TSSG-Waterford Institute of Technology, Tyndall National Institute, INSIGHT research centre for data analytics, and Teagasc. The candidate are expected to be highly self-motivated, and willing to work in future emerging topics in Agri. Tech. The three topics includes:

Position 1: Modeling and Simulation framework for Molecular Communication Systems in Smart Agriculture.

Description: Molecular communications is a new emerging field that aims to characterize and develop communication systems from components and systems developed from biological systems. This new paradigm can play a major role in smart agriculture and can be used to transfer sensed data and control signals within animals and plants. Such communications can be linked to the broader communications in smart agriculture, resulting in better plant and animal health, higher yields, lower use of interventions such as antibiotics, fertilisers and pesticides, with reduced costs for farmers and with wider benefits to the environment and human health. While there have been numerous simulation frameworks developed for molecular communications, the vast majority of these are based on very simple assumptions (e.g. diffusion based on Fick’s Law), and does not have designs that are modular enough for adaptations to specific types of cells or system. Another major issue is that molecular communications aims to develop artificial communication systems, where tools from Synthetic Biology can be utilized. Synthetic Biology can allow programming of genetic circuits that can change the functions of cells, and in particular their communication properties. This can be achieved through the insertion of genes into the DNA that enables genetic functions to change. However, to date, there has been a disconnect between Synthetic Biology and Molecular Communications.

The purpose of this PhD research is to develop a new Molecular Communications simulator, that is (i) adaptable to various environmental factors (e.g., drifts and turbulence), different ranges, as well as cell types (initially only a small number of cell types will be considered), (ii) interfaces to Synthetic Biology tools, to enable the programming of molecular communication networks (this is akin to programming the software inside a communication device). A number of tools will be investigated from both the networking simulators (e.g., NS3), as well as Synthetic Biology tools (e.g., GRO, CHESS).

Position 2: Nanomaterials and their back-scattering effects for the Internet of Nano Things.

Description: The Internet of Things (IoT) aims to enable connections of various devices to the Internet. The Internet of Nano Things (IoNT) paradigm will take IoT to a new level, where devices that will be connected to the Internet will be focused on nanodevices that are constructed from nanomaterials and components. These nanodevices will communicates to a micro-device, which in turn communicates to the Internet. Since farming environments (e.g., use of pesticides on the farms, or antibiotics for the animals) require various different chemical agents to be used, the process will need to be achieved through certain types of nanomaterials. In particular, this will allow very fine granular sensing at molecular level, which can provide new benefits for compliance monitoring on both the farm as well as animals. However, this PhD topic will develop a new direction for IoNT that focuses on the properties of nanomaterials and their signal reflection that could be used for sensing applications. It is a wide known fact that a number of nanomaterials will have different responses when certain types of molecules bind onto their surface (these materials can be functionalized with receptors to allow certain molecules to bind, making them molecule specific sensors). The PhD research will investigate the properties of metamaterials and their use for nanosensing, the use of backscattering communication models that can be applied for IoNT, applications of machine learning for analyzing sensed data. The research will require knowledge in machine learning and its use for developing communication models.

Position 3Cooperative Edge Analytics for IoT devices in Smart Farming

Description: Fog Computing enables data to be processed on IoT devices that are closed to the source of the information, in order to (i) provide high responsive intelligent services in connectivity-constrained environments (e.g. rural farms), (ii) re-use spare computational and otherwise capacity at the Edge of the Network (i.e. autonomous and sustainable computing), (iii) reduce the need of sharing information outside the farm (i.e. the farmer is in control of their own data, lower exposure to information security/privacy risks). Since Smart Agriculture will lead to diverse sensors that are placed in the pasture, animal, as well as the milking facility, this means that edge analytics will be required to maximise efficiency before the data is transmitted to the cloud.

While it is recognized that there are spare resources at the edge of the network, the resources remain rather limited, and, therefore, limit the range and scope of intelligence functionality suitable for Fog execution. In the world of IoT these limitations are typically addressed through device cooperation. Meanwhile, cooperation is also widely exploited in the realms of Artificial Intelligence under the name of “ensemble learning”. The objective of this PhD research is to study is to investigate joint use of cooperation and ensemble learning for Fog computing. The student is expected to conduct mathematical modelling for various cooperative algorithms, as well as simulation work for edge devices placed in a farming environment.

The PhD project will be for 4 years and will cover fees in addition to a personal stipend (and research expenses).

Reference Number: WD_2019_29 ,

Department: Mobile Ecosystem & Pervasive Sensing (MEPS)
Location: Carriganore, Waterford
Salary: Stipend: €18,000 per annum for 4 years and Fees: €4,500 per annum for 4 years
Start: September 2019
Duration: 4 years
Min. Required: Bsc in Engineering in Electrical and Electronics (specializing in communication engineering), or Computer Science.

Person Specification

Academic Qualifications


  • Bsc in Engineering in Electrical and Electronics (specializing in communication engineering), or Computer Science.


  • MSc degree in Engineering in Electrical and Electronics (specializing in communication engineering), or Computer Science (specializing in communication network theory).

Essential (all positions)

  • Strong mathematical modelling skills in communication engineering (in particular strong background in wireless communication engineering).
  • Strong interpersonal and communications skills.
  • Good programming skills with experience in MATLAB, python programming skills, or other tools used for modelling.
  • Experience with simulation tools used in communication networks (e.g., ns3).


  • Experience in mathematical modelling and analysis of communication systems, and this may include physical layer (e.g., modulation or coding) to networking layer (all positions).
  • Expertise in machine learning (position 2)
  • Expertise and have a passion for mathematical and computational biology (position 1)
  • Experience in molecular communications (position 1)
  • Familiarity with concepts of Artificial Intelligence and/or Game Theory (position 3)
Specific Knowledge & Skills


  • Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English, please see WIT’s English Language Requirements for details.
  • Highly motivated, demonstrate initiative and ability to work within multi-disciplinary project team to achieve results
  • Have an academic record of excellence and good writing skills.


  • Paper Publications/ Journal writing and submission experience.
  • Full list of publications, if any.

Application Procedure

WIT is an equal opportunities employer

Further information

For any informal queries, please contact Jane Mahony at email: or telephone: +00353 (0) 51 834173

For queries relating to the application and admission process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions Office via email or telephone +353 (0)51 302883.


Application procedure

Download the Research Postgraduate Application Form and return completed applications to, quoting WD_2019_29 in the email subject line. Please note that paper submissions will not be accepted.


The Institute may decide to interview only those applicants who appear from the information available, to be the most suitable, in terms of experience, qualifications and other requirements of the post.