PhD Studentship - Are You Looking at Me? Transferring Social Skills from Humans to Robots

University of Essex - Psychology

We seek a talented student to work on an exciting new interdisciplinary project.

This studentship will start 4 October 2018 and once awarded, you will receive funding for three years of your PhD (subject to satisfactory progression).

The studentship includes:

  • A fee waiver equal to the Home/EU fee (£4,410 in 2018-19), International students will need to pay the balance of their fees.
  • A stipend equivalent to the Research Councils UK National Minimum Doctoral Stipend (£14,553 in 2017-18)

This project is a collaboration between experts in human and artificial systems which aims to answer the question: how do agents (people and robots) use their eyes to communicate during an interaction? This will help us test theories about cognition and development in humans and build better, “social” robots.

The human eyes are used to gather information from the environment, but they are also used to signal attention during an interaction. For social robots to operate outside the lab they must be able to perform both tasks.

The student will collect, analyse and model data on eye-movements, EEG and heartbeat during different types of social interaction. This will give us a deeper understanding of how people interact and will have critical implications for designing robots for settings including healthcare.

The student will be based in Psychology (ranked 13th in the UK for research quality in REF 2014). They will join our interdisciplinary team, working together with other students and academics from Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, which is a centre of excellence for robotics and brain-computer interaction.

The successful applicant will be supervised by Dr Tom Foulsham in the Department of Psychology, working alongside Dr Dimitri Ognibene, Dr Vishuu Mohan and Dr Luca Citi in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.

Additional questions and queries should be addressed to Dr Tom Foulsham ( and Dr Dimitri Ognibene (

Entry requirements
At a minimum, the successful applicant will have a good honours degree (1st class or high 2:1, or equivalent) in psychology, computer science or related subjects. An MSc is desirable (but not essential). The ideal candidate will have experience in testing participants or using cognitive neuroscience methods and strong analytical, mathematical, and programming skills.

How to Apply

You need to apply for admission to the University via our online postgraduate application form. Please note you will not be required to submit a project proposal.

Please state in your application and Personal Statement that you are applying for our project on “Are you looking at me? Transferring social skills from humans to robots”. Your Personal Statement should explain why you are applying for this specific project and what you could bring to the team in terms of skills, experience and enthusiasm.

Please note that you must be applying for a new programme of study at the University of Essex, starting in October 2018, in order to be eligible. Applications for this Faculty of Science and Health funded Doctoral Studentship must be submitted by 12th March 2018. Interviews for shortlisted candidates will take place week commencing 9th April 2018.

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