Job: “Measuring behaviour during real and synthetic social interactions across cultures” – Funded PhD studentship at Edge Hill University

Funded PhD studentship in Virtual Reality and Games
Measuring behaviour during real and synthetic social interactions across cultures
Edge Hill University
Ormskirk, Lancashire, United Kingdom

PhD funded through the Graduate Teaching Assistant scheme
Supervisors: Prof Daniela Romano (Computing), Prof Geoff Beattie (Psychology), Dr Ardhendu Bahera (Computing)

Closing Date: Sunday 10 April 2016


When Edge Hill was awarded the University of the Year title for 2014/15, Times Higher Education described it as “a great success story…an institution that improves and impresses year after year”. The award recognised our outstanding achievements in student satisfaction, staff engagement, graduate employment and innovation as well as our strengthening research profile, investment and growth. It also celebrated Edge Hill University’s distinct role in “transforming lives” – reflecting a distinctive philosophy of creating opportunity from excellence.

Based on an award-winning campus in West Lancashire, and voted Best University Workplace 2015, Edge Hill University offers a stimulating and empowering environment for ambitious and high performing professionals.

Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE), Institute for Public Policy and Professional Practice (I4P), Postgraduate Medical Institute (PGMI):

The University is home to a large and diverse group of disciplines with a track record of excellence in research, much of which crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries. We are particularly keen to continue to build our research capacity, and welcome applications for up to 6 PhD studentships in specified subject areas linked to one of the University’s three Research Institutes. All the studentships will be combined with Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs).


Graduate Teaching Assistants hold a unique position in the University, being both registered students and carrying out teaching/teaching support duties (of up to 6 hours per week on a term time only basis per annum subject to the needs of the particular course/module).

Payment for teaching hours will be in the region of £8,300 per annum and each GTA will receive a ‘package’ which includes a combined salary (for teaching or support to teaching as appropriate) and full waiver of postgraduate tuition fees as well as a scholarship of in the region of £5,500 per annum. Limited postgraduate student accommodation is also available on campus (subject to availability and charged at standard rates). Research proposals are invited on:

Measuring behaviour during real and synthetic social interactions across cultures:

Emotions and social intelligence play an important role in our social interactions, and shape our expressions and reactions. We are often unaware of how our non-verbal behaviour and physical reactions disclose our feelings and shape the response of our interlocutors.

As part of the digital revolution we are experiencing a change in the manner in which social interaction take place, being those often non-collocated and technology mediated. In addition we are experiencing a globalization of cultures and increased diversity that puts at test our unconscious biases. Having the ability to deal with these differences is an essential skill in work and in our everyday life.

This PhD research will develop a novel computer-based solution for measuring emotional reactions and behaviour during real and simulated social interactions with diversity, and drive the reaction of a simulated human in order to train people in dealing with diversity.

Novel vision and physiological monitoring and artificial intelligence techniques will be applied to understand the human interlocutors and tailor the reactions of the diverse simulate human. The system effectiveness will be tested with real users and the interactions evaluated.

In particular the project will encompass the following areas of research: virtual reality, vision, affective and social psychology research, in which the supervisory team has a vast experience.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Professor Daniela Romano (Department of Computing) at


Al-Saleh, M. and Romano, D.M. (2015). Culturally Appropriate Behavior in Virtual Agents. AIIDE 2015, 11th Annual AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment, United States of America, Santa Cruz, 14-18 November 2015.

Beattie, G. (2013). Our Racist Heart? An Exploration of Unconscious Prejudice in Everyday Life. Routledge: London.

Howard, I. D. Gilchrist, T. Troscianko, A. Behera and D. C. Hogg (2011). ask relevance predicts gaze in videos of real moving scenes. Experimental Brain Research, 214(1), pp 131-137

Students will be expected to:

  • Successfully undertake an initial programme of accredited research training.
  • Undertake a PhD programme of research under the supervision of an appointed supervisory team.
  • Enhance the research culture of the Department in which they are located, the Research Institute to which they are attached, and the University by participating in events, conferences and training.
  • Successfully complete a programme of teacher training.
  • Undertake up to six hours teaching a week or working with the Institute to which they are attached alongside University Departments or external agencies or organisations as directed by their Head of Department/Research Institute Director.


Applicants must complete the online application form, attaching one document containing:

  • A ‘Research Proposal’ which should not exceed 2,000 words in length
  • A full academic curriculum vitae

Applicants should normally have, or be about to obtain, a Masters qualification in a subject relevant to the studentship for which they are applying.

Interviews will be held between Tuesday 3 May and Wednesday 11 May 2016

Further details: Job Description (pdf)

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