Job: Postdoctoral Research Associate in HCI at Durham University

Call for Applications

Postdoctoral Research Associate (Job Number: 21001319)
Department of Computer Science
Durham University
Durham, UK

Grade 7: – £34,304 to £40,927 per annum
Fixed Term – Full Time (this role is full time but we will consider requests for flexible working arrangements including potential job shares)
Contract Duration: 30 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35

Closing Date: 3rd June 2022, 11:59:00 PM


Durham University is one of the world’s top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people’s lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.


We are a growing Department, ranked 5th in the Complete University Guide 2021. We are proud of our high-quality teaching and research and the people who make it all happen. We strive to be a friendly and inclusive place to study and work for all. We are one of Durham’s newest academic departments, having split from the School of Engineering and Computer Science in 2017, we have rapidly grown to be a thriving home for staff, undergraduates, postgraduates, and visitors.

We are now set up in a brand new purpose-built building along with the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Our research strengths include theoretical computer science, computer vision, AI, high-performance computing, digital humanities and bioinformatics. And our strong alumni network contributes to the department in many ways – including our External Advisory Board, visiting speakers, student placements, and philanthropic support of scholarships. We have some hugely influential alumni in the Tech Sector.


Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) with a particular emphasis on User Modelling in Verification in the context of the research project UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems (TAS) Verifiability Node (

The goal of the project is to develop a unifying framework that will integrate rigorous verification techniques for autonomous systems (AS). Our framework will support the heterogeneous and adaptive nature of verification techniques, their scale, and their levels of abstraction. This is a multi-disciplinary node with expertise in AI, robotics, human-computer interaction, systems and software engineering, and testing in order to realise our vision in collaboration with the Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Hub and other Nodes.

The successful candidate will work in the work-package “Closing the Reality Gap: Users” being led by Prof. Effie Lai-Chong Law on the tasks of defining user models of Human-AS collaborative interactions and validating as well as refining these models in case studies.


  • To develop domain-agnostic human-autonomous system (AS) collaboration frameworks, modelling user behaviour, task analysis and their interactions.
  • To develop measurement models for evaluating the transparency of human-AS collaborations with reference to interaction design methods and to rules, policies and ethics regulating behaviour of autonomous systems.
  • To refine the frameworks and models developed by analysing and synthesizing the verification results from the system-based studies.
  • To apply the refined frameworks and models to a range of specialised case studies involving different autonomous systems such as chatbots and drones.
  • To organise and engage in research activities with the other TAS nodes; Trust, Security, Governance and Regulation
  • To publish high quality outputs, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals and papers for presentation at conferences and workshops under the direction of the Principal Investigator or Grant-holder.

This post is fixed term for 30 months; the project is time limited and will end on 30/04/2024.

The post-holder is employed to work on a research project which will be led by another colleague. Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.



1. Qualifications

  • A good first degree in Computer Science.
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in Human-Computer Interaction or a related subject.

2, Experience

  • High expertise and experience in user modelling from the HCI perspective;
  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in highly-ranked journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at HCI, AI and Computer Science national/international conferences and communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.

3. Skills

  • Good understanding of autonomous systems;
  • Good skills in user-based studies;
  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.


4. Experience

  • Expertise in formal methods for human-in-the-loop in verification and validation;
  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Technical expertise in conversational agents (chatbots)
  • Technical knowledge in machine learning methods
  • Knowledge of AI ethics

5. Skills

  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research.


For informal enquiries please contact Prof. Effie L-C. Law (Email:; Phone: Ext: +44 (0)191 33-44438). All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.


All applicants are asked to submit:

  • A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out above;
  • One own article (including a conference/journal paper, a manuscript in preparation or a PhD thesis chapter) on the topic related to user modelling;


The assessment for the post will include presentation on own research experience and expertise in the field of HCI, demonstration of user modelling skills, and ability to explain complex concepts in an accessible manner. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview on early/mid-June 2022.

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