The Music Lab (PI Samuel Mehr) is recruiting students at the MSc and PhD levels in the School of Psychology, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

If you are reading this, you are probably doing so on a device that plays music. You are probably able to hear and understand that music. You probably can also produce music of your own, even if you’ve never had music lessons. You probably engage with music on a regular basis, regardless of your cultural background, location in the world, or socioeconomic status. You have probably been this way your whole life.

In the Music Lab, we’re figuring out why the human mind is designed in such a way that all of the above is true. We study music perception and cognition via a range of methods, including web-based citizen science; developmental and cognitive psychology; evolutionary anthropology; and data science. Candidates can learn more about our research and also participate in an experiment at https://themusiclab.org.

We are aiming to recruit 2-3 students at the PhD or MSc level to lead basic research on the psychology of music, including (i) experiments on the perception of tonal and metrical hierarchies, conducted at large scale in adults and children online, and with infants in the laboratory; (ii) studies of music perception in people who have rare auditory perception deficits; (iii) studies of the universality and diversity of music production across human cultures, including the cultural evolution of musical phenomena; and (iv) studies of cross-cultural variability in musical structures, such as meter, melody, and harmony.

Each student will likely lead one or more projects but our lab takes a collaborative, team-science approach, with many lab members co-authoring papers and working in collaboration with one another under Dr Mehr’s supervision (please see our papers, which often include contributions from multiple students). As such, an ability to work well as a team member is essential. Other helpful experience includes prior work with human parents, children, and/or infants; analytic skills (e.g., R, Stata) and web development (e.g., javascript, SQL) experience; and experience or coursework in the psychology or neuroscience of music and/or audition — but none of these are required to apply.

Students will have a range of resources available to support their research, including extensive facilities for infant studies at the University of Auckland Early Learning Lab, including eye tracking, motion tracking, and psychophysiology methods; facilities for citizen-science research at https://themusiclab.org, where millions of people take part in auditory experiments (run from our sister site at Haskins Labs/Yale University); and advanced computing resources at both Auckland and Yale. Needless to say, New Zealand is a fantastic place to live, work, and study. Auckland is the largest city in NZ, with many direct (albeit long) flights to major cities in North and South America, East Asia, and Australia; Auckland also consistently ranks high on measures of liveability (#1 in The Economist’s 2021 global ranking).

Scholarships are available via two Royal Society of New Zealand grants, the Marsden Fund project “Structure of human music perception” and the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship “Psychological and cultural foundations of music”. PhD scholarships last 3 years and include tuition and an annual stipend of NZ$35,000. MSc scholarships last 1 year and include tuition and an annual stipend of NZ$22,000. Multiple scholarships are available at both levels. The timing of the positions is flexible, with MSc students able to begin in December 2022, March 2023, or July 2023, and PhD students able to begin at any point after September 2022. Given this flexibility, applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

To be eligible for a scholarship, you will need to have completed your undergraduate degree in psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, music, or a related field. If applying from New Zealand, this should be either an honours degree or a postgraduate qualification with a research component; if applying from overseas, this should be at least a Bachelor’s degree, but more advanced candidates (e.g., with a master’s degree already completed) are also welcome to apply. Relocation assistance is not guaranteed, but we will do our best to make funding available to assist. Further information about graduate study in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland is available at https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/study/study-options/find-a-study-option/psychology/postgraduate.html.

To express your interest in applying, please fill out the form at https://forms.gle/gyj9xAxX8D35PFYQ7. Successful candidates will subsequently be invited to submit a formal application via the School of Psychology. Please do not apply directly to the School unless directed to do so.

If you have questions about your fit to our lab, please contact the PI, Dr Samuel Mehr: .