Job: Modelling a humanoid virtual assistant for remote and isolated caregivers – PhD fellowship at French National Research Centre Lab

PhD fellowship

Subject: Modelling a humanoid virtual assistant for remote and isolated caregivers
UMR-CNRS (French National Research Centre) Lab-STICC
Brest, France

Supervisor: Ronan Querrec
Co-supervisors: Elisabetta Bevacqua

ENIB – Brest National School of Engineering
Lab-STICC – Laboratory in the field of Information, Communication and Knowledge Science

Keywords: embodied conversational agents, multimodal data analysis and generation, medical procedures and assistance data, system trustworthiness.

The PhD project is part of the ANR VR-MARS Project that aims at implementing an assistance system designed for emergency care support in remote and isolated sites. The system will be based on virtual reality (RV) and embodied conversational agents (ECAs). We hypothesize that these two technologies improve the situation understanding and the coordination of all the stakeholders: a remote caregiver and the referent expert centre. The VR-MARS case study will focus on space medicine and the simulation of emergency care during a manned mission on Mars. The geographic distance will be doubled by the temporal isolation, due to the communication latency between the caregiver (on Mars) and the expert centre (on Earth).

The goal of this PhD is to design, implement and evaluate the virtual assistant. The virtual assistant must be able to support the caregiver to go through a medical procedure and to help them to keep the stress level under control. It must also transmit orders from the expert centre to the remote medical team imposing its authority if necessary.

The PhD is organized around 4 main tasks:

  1. State of the art: firstly, a thorough study of the state of the art will be fundamental to define, on the one hand, how humans help others to manage their level of stress and, on the other hand, how they give orders.
  2. Multimodal data pre-processing: some experimentation are being currently conducted in order to tests ECA’s features. We want to evaluate medical emergency situations (such as severe acute appendicitis or leg fracture) involving functionalities considered as dedicated to the ECA, but carried either by caregivers or by elementary cognitive supports. The aim is to collect data that will help us to conceptualize the functionalities of the ECA and that will provide us with examples of the multimodal behaviours that the agent should be able to show.
  3. Computational modelling and implementation in an embodied conversational agent: this step will require to integrate the knowledge acquired during the first two steps to propose and implement a model of the virtual assistant.
  4. Evaluation: the model will be evaluated through experiments conducted in collaboration with the other partners of the project.

The PhD is fully funded during 3 years as part of the ANR VR-MARS Project. The work will be realized at the European Centre for Virtual Reality (CERV), a very well-known laboratory, specialized in autonomous behavior modelling and human/system interaction. More precisely, the thesis will be developed within the Lab-STICC.


The PhD candidate should have a master’s degree completed in Computer Science, Applied Mathematics. Knowledge of multimodal data processing and multimodal behaviour generation are considered as a major asset. French language is not required but very appreciated.


The application files should contain the following documents:

  • a detailed curriculum,
  • a description of the academic background and a copy of academic records and most recent diploma,
  • A cover letter describing why the applicant wishes to participate in this project and his/her research’s adequacy with the proposed topics,
  • 2 recommendation letters (including one from the master or equivalent diploma supervisor)

The application files (or any question) should be sent to:

Elisabetta Bevacqua:
Ronan Querrec:


THE EUROPEAN CENTRE FOR VIRTUAL REALITY: The CERV technology platform is part of the Engineering National School of Brest which is attached to the UMR-CNRS (French National Research Centre) Lab-STICC. It consists of about 30 researchers with backgrounds in Computer Science, Mathematics, Cognitive Science and Psychology. Main topics are virtual reality, artificial autonomous behaviour, natural interaction, cognitive sciences and embodied conversational agents. CERV will provide a rich and dynamic intellectual environment for a young PhD student.

BREST: Brest is a mid-sized town of 150,000 residents nestled in the natural Brest roadstead, at the west end of Brittany. Important harbour and second French military port, Brest possesses also several Educational Institutes, like “Grandes Ecoles” and top-level Universities, museums and “Le Quartz”, a very well known National Theatre.

In addition to its scientific, scholarly and cultural strengths, Brest boasts outstanding recreational activities. Its residents may have an easy access to climbing, sailing, fishing, biking and swimming. Even a simple walk along the seaside becomes a unique experience thanks to the breathtaking landscape.

More information can be found here: and

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