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Excellence Cluster Science of Intelligence (SCIoI)

Reference number: SCIoI-C5-46A

salary grade E 13 TV-L FU; limited to 3 years

The Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Institute of Animal Welfare, Animal Behavior and Laboratory Animal Science invites applications for a doctoral or postdoctoral research assistant position at the Cluster of Excellence “Science of Intelligence”

What are the principles of intelligence, shared by all forms of intelligence, no matter whether artificial or biological, whether robot, computer program, human, or animal? And how can we apply these principles to create intelligent technology? Answering these questions - in an ethically responsible way - is the central scientific objective of the new Cluster of Excellence Science of Intelligence (, where researchers from a large number of analytic and synthetic disciplines - artificial intelligence, machine learning, control, robotics, computer vision, behavioral biology, psychology, educational science, neuroscience, and philosophy - join forces to create a multi-disciplinary research program across universities and research institutes in Berlin. Interdisciplinary research projects have been defined (, which combine analytic and synthetic research and which address key aspects of individual, social, and collective intelligence.

Working field

Field of activity: Analysis of problem-solving strategies in mice for complex mechanical puzzles

Description of the proposed project (in its entirety, not specific to this position):

In a previous project, we designed so-called lock boxes for mice, which are mechanical puzzles baited with a food reward. If a mouse succeeds in opening a lock box, it will receive a food reward. We could demonstrate that mice are able to solve different types of lock boxes and that their performance improved over time. In the follow-up project, we aim to derive 3-dimensional “skeletal” models of the mice for the video frames using machine learning. We will use this to understand how and on which level of abstraction the mice solve the problem. Do mice acquire an abstract schema of the task that allows them to solve a qualitatively different lock box? Do they approach the combined lock box in a planful way upon the first encounter or do they simply explore all lock box parts randomly? On the finer level of motor control: Do the mice simply learn to smartly “rattle” the lock box in an exploratory fashion – which would allow them to solve a mildly modified lock box – or do they learn an idiosyncratic solution that exploits the physical details of the lock box part? We will address these questions by performing extensive data analyses and modeling of the existing data – with a focus on the substantial behavioral variability within and across mice, and by using a reconfigurable version of the lock box – “a multiple access lock box” – to study if mice can flexibly generalize to related lock box tasks. Finally, we will try to identify the control laws that govern the movements of the mice, to synthesize artificial trajectories of mice solving different parts of the lock box.


Project Leads:

·       Christa Thöne-Reineke

·       Lars Lewejohann

·       Olaf Hellwich

·       Henning Sprekeler

·       Marc Toussaint

·       Katharina Hohlbaum

Description of the doctoral or postdoctoral project:

The project focuses on the analytical part while there will be a very close collaboration with the synthetic disciplines. The lock box sets that have already been developed in our previous project will be modified as multiple access lock boxes. While the design will remain unchanged, additional solutions to open the lock boxes are created. To understand the motivation of the mice to open the lock boxes, the lock boxes will be baited with different rewards. The mice will have access to the multiple access lock boxes in their home cages and their behavior will be monitored using video cameras from different perspectives. Additionally, a preference test can be carried out, in which the animals can choose between a lock box baited with a food reward and a freely accessible food reward. After the mice got familiar with one solution of the multiple access lock boxes over a prolonged period, this particular solution will be inactivated, and the other solution(s) will be activated. The multi access lock box will enable us to investigate whether mice are capable of innovative problem solving. Die video data generated in these experiments will be analyzed in close collaboration with the synthetic disciplines.


·       Conducting experimental research in laboratory animal science

·       Design, execution, and analysis of behavioral tests to characterize cognitive behavior

·       Automated and manual evaluation of behavior

·       Interaction within the SCIoI cluster of excellence

·       Compilation of the results for presentations, project reports, and publications


·       University degree (master’s, diploma) or comparable degree in biology, veterinary medicine, neuroscience, cognitive science or comparable subject


·       Doctoral degree desired

·       Extensive knowledge on behavioral biology and laboratory animal science

·       Experience in handling small mammals (including breeding and keeping)

·       Very good command of English, both written and spoken

·       A keen interest in understanding intelligence and the strong communicative skills required for interdisciplinary research

·       Very good computer literacy as well as a conscientious work approach, flexibility, good time management, and ability to work in a team


The position is ideally suited for experienced candidates with a PhD in a relevant topic, but outstanding candidates on the PhD level are encouraged to apply.


Application procedure:

Candidates should upload their application preferably via the portal in order to receive full consideration.


On the given occasion and for the duration of the essential on-site operations by Freie Universität Berlin, we kindly ask you to apply electronically by e-mail. The processing of a postal application cannot be guaranteed.


Applications should include:

motivation letter, curriculum vitae, transcripts of records (for both BSc and MSc), copies of degree certificates (BSc, MSc, PhD if applicable), proof of English skills, abstracts of Bachelor-, Master- and (if applicable) PhD-thesis, list of publications and one selected manuscript (if applicable), two names of qualified persons who are willing to provide references, and any documents candidates feel may help us assess their competence.

With an electronic application, you acknowledge that FU Berlin saves and processes your data. FU Berlin cannot guarantee the security of your personal data if you send your application over an unencrypted connection.

Please go here for the legally binding German version of this job advertisement.



Hinweise und Anmerkungen für die Personalräte, Stellenwirtschaft oder Personalabteilung:


·       Einstellungsbeginn ist geplant für den 01.06.2023 und auf 3 Jahre befristet (Projektende: 31.05.2026).

·       Ausschreibung muss gemäß Zeitplan am 24.10.2022 veröffentlicht werden, da mehrere Institutionen (FU Berlin, TU Berlin, BfR) beteiligt sind und alle parallel veröffentlichen müssen.

·       Bewerbungsfrist muss am 24.11.22 enden (ebenso, da mehrere Institutionen beteiligt sind).

·       Die oben genannte Kennung: „SCIoI-C5-46A“ muss zwingend so lauten (ebenso, da mehrere Institutionen beteiligt sind).

·       Für die Bewerbungen soll zwingend die oben genannte Bewerbungsplattform genutzt werden.

·       Finanzierung aus – Projekttitel „Mouse Lock Box 2.0“, SCIoI-Projektnr. 46:

Ø  Fond: 0502391704

Ø  Kostenstelle: 08110400