Applications are invited for a PhD scholarship to examine fundamental social and biological interactions using game theory.

Do you want to know why fundamental aspects of social and biological interactions are the way they are? Such as why sexual reproduction nearly always requires two different sexes. And why money is pretty much ubiquitous in human societies.

We do! We see the world through the lens of evolutionary game theory with stochastic interacting agents. They all want to get the best for themselves, and somehow self-organise to find equilibria where nobody is too unhappy.

Constructing and analysing these games requires maths, computer science, and some knowledge of the system we are evolving, which might be the evolution of oogamy, or more generally cooperation within groups. Or something else that’s equally exciting… That’s where you might come in.


This scholarship is open to anyone who can be in New Zealand and meets the requirements to enrol in a PhD at the relevant institution.

You will have a background in quantitative subjects, and a lively interest in the world around you.

We encourage applicants from all backgrounds to apply and we especially encourage applications from Māori and Pasifika students. Our research group aims to achieve work-life balance within a productive scientific environment.


You will be based at Victoria University of Wellington, in Aotearoa New Zealand’s capital. You will be jointly supervised by Associate Professor Marcus Frean, Professor Stephen Marsland and Dr Chrissie Painting.

You will be part of Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems. Te Pūnaha Matatini brings together different disciplines, ways of thinking, methods, and people to define and solve society’s thorny interconnected problems.

Te Pūnaha Matatini has an active whānau group which supports early career researchers, committed to the Te Pūnaha Matatini values of manaakitanga and whakawhanaungatanga, offering supportive tuakana / teina learning environments.


Please get in touch if you have questions about this position.

Financial details

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend of NZ$28,800 per year (tax free)

Start date

Start date is flexible but would preferably be between January and June 2022.

How to apply

Interested candidates should send an email expressing their interest, along with a CV, academic record, and list of three potential referees to Marcus Frean at

Due date

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Applications received by Friday 21 January 2022 will receive full consideration.