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Funded PhD Studentships in the School of Computing

Edinburgh Napier University - School of Computing

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Edinburgh
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Covers tuition fees plus an annual stipend
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 7th June 2019
Closes: 5th July 2019

The School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University is one of the largest computing departments in the UK. With over 70 academics and 1400 students, we have recently committed significant investment to recruiting additional staff, creating labs, improving facilities and increasing postgraduate student numbers. 

Funding Details

Three three-year funded PhD studentships are offered for 2019/20 start. The Home (UK/EU) rate of tuition fees will be paid, plus an annual stipend at the prevailing UKRI rate (currently £15,009). International students would have to pay the difference between the prevailing home and overseas rates of fees each year (for the year 2019/20 this amounts to £8,390 for full-time students, details can be found here).

Eligibility Criteria

Students with a good first degree (at least a 2.1) in a relevant subject and IELTS score of at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components), if relevant, are eligible to apply.


Edinburgh Napier University is committed to promoting equality and diversity in our staff and student community

Application Process

Applications are invited from students with interests aligned to any of our Research Groups (see descriptions below). The closing date is Friday 5 July 2019.

To apply, please write a 2-3 page research proposal with the following sections

  • Tentative title for research
  • The Research Group you would expect to work with (see group descriptions below)
  • Context: a couple of paragraphs providing the motivation and context for why the work is important
  • Background section around one page, briefly outlining some relevant previous research in this area, referring to peer-reviewed academic texts
  • Potential avenues for research: up to half a page – outline the important questions that might form the focus of your research
  • Approach: up to half a page outlining at a high-level how you might go about addressing the questions you have raised, and how you would evaluate your work

The proposal should be your own work.

Based on the proposal we will invite a selection of people to come and meet us and discuss the proposal further with potential supervisors and others for about one hour. We will use your proposal as a basis for the discussion. As a result of considering the proposal and the discussion, some people will be invited to formally apply for a studentship.

What we are looking for in your proposal and during the discussion:

  • A genuine interest in the research field
  • An ability to grasp and synthesise information from the literature and write clearly about it
  • Evidence that you can think independently and generate ideas and suggestions about what kind of research you might undertake. We don’t necessarily expect ideas to be fully-formed or even correct at this stage.
  • Evidence that you can think flexibly, can listen, take on board new information, and adjust your thinking appropriately

The proposal should be sent with a CV to Alison McIlveen

School of Computing Research Groups

Social Informatics

The research undertaken by the staff and research students within the Centre for Social Informatics (CSI) provides critical perspectives on sociotechnical interactions across a range of subject areas. These include democratic digital engagement, e-government, information policy, information seeking behaviour and use, knowledge management, the Information Society, online communities, and open data and open government. A number of externally funded projects are currently in progress within CSI: a Royal Society of Edinburgh Network grant on research value and impact; a Carnegie grant on social media proxies; GCRF seed funded work on participatory budgeting in Brazil. CSI research students conduct doctoral research on topics such as the social impact of youth digital engagement, workplace learning and innovative work behaviour, the value of the census to policymaking, knowledge sharing in public sector organisations, and the role of public libraries in the development of citizenship.

User Experience & Evaluation (UXE)

The User Experience & Evaluation (UXE) Research Group is engaged in research and innovation for designing human-computer interactions of the future. Our research is human-centred and employs qualitative and quantitative methods to study perceptions, behaviour, experience and affect. User experience technologies in our Sensorium Lab are applied in our research to measure physical, psychological and neurological responses and behaviour of people as they interact in real-time with digital artefacts, systems, services and devices. The group’s research is interdisciplinary, applied in a broad spectrum of digital domains including, for example, in interactions with data/information, interfaces, security & surveillance applications, wearable technologies, augmented & virtual reality, soundscapes, animation, gaming, and IoT smart devices.

Nature-Inspired Intelligent Systems

The group takes inspiration from processes observed in natural systems to build computational systems that are capable of problem solving – tackling problems that range from optimising processes, through engineering design, to enabling groups reach socially beneficial outcomes, e.g. reducing energy consumption or carbon emissions.

We apply evolutionary algorithms/hyper-heuristic methods to combinatorial optimisation problems, e.g. logistics, workforce-scheduling, timetabling and packing, using multi-objective and quality-diversity algorithms. We combine EAs with machine-learning techniques to develop algorithm-selection methods, improve classification methods via feature-construction and transformation, and develop life-long optimisation systems, exploiting automatic algorithm-generation approaches using Genetic Programming and Grammatical Evolution. Our work in Evolutionary Swarm Robotics is applied to design of novel robots and as a method to develop adaptive behavioural mechanisms, that enable robot(s) to remain fit-for-purpose in dynamically changing environments, and to collaborate to achieve tasks more efficiently.

We study human behaviour, and use this understanding to engineer socio-technical systems (e.g. smart grids, peer-to-peer clouds). Evolutionary game theory combined with agent-based-modelling and models of social learning and cultural evolution are used to understand how groups can create institutions and solve social dilemmas. Finally, one-shot learning techniques are used to understand and generate language in the context of situated dialogue (i.e. human-robot interaction).

Intelligence-Driven Software Engineering

The research of the Intelligence-Driven Software Engineering Research Group (IDSE) focuses on developing the novel approaches, models and tools for effectively building emerging new software systems. We are aiming to address pervasive or IoT-based systems, games and graphics-based system engineering, cloud computing services, and microservice-oriented architecture. Lack of intelligence has been a major hurdle for software engineering to meet the needs of these new software systems. Our work innovatively adopts artificial intelligence and semantic models as a new dimension of “intelligence” to drive the development of these software systems. Our vision is to make the group an influential research group in the theme of “Intelligence-Driven Software Engineering” with an international leading fame, prospectively with certain world-leading standing in the pioneer research and application in the popular domains of IoT-based systems, cyber physical systems, games and cloud services. We are actively fostering inter-disciplinary research and disseminating and commercialising our research findings.

Cyber Systems and Cryptography

This work is led by Prof Bill Buchanan OBE, and focuses on creating a more trustworthy digital world. It integrates research around the creation, analysis and investigation of information systems which respect ownership, privacy, consent and governance. Research areas include: Blockchain/DLT; Cryptography; Privacy-preserving machine learning; Secure/Trusted Architectures and Integration (including e-Health); Identity Systems; Privacy-preserving Cryptography; Protection, Defence and Incident Response; Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS); and Digital Forensics. The research area integrates into a World’s first identity lab (Blockpass Identity Lab), and which focuses on key areas around privacy, trust infrastructures, tokenization, blockchain and identity. Key domains in which the research group work include with finance, health care/government services and law enforcement. Their work has had considerable impact over the years, including the creation of three highly successful spin-out companies (Zonefox, Symphonic and Cyan Forensics) and an award for outstanding contribution to knowledge exchange. Of the many real-life impacts, the Zonefox spin-out have led forward with the integration of AI into Cyber Security. Within digital forensics the team have a long track-record of sustained contribution within the field, and which are now used within real-life investigations. Overall the research team have a core vision on creating a more trusted world and putting the citizen at the centre of this. A core part of this is extensive engagement with industry and with a wide range of specialist domains. Associate Director: Dr Gordon Russell.

Data Science and Cyber Analytics (DSCA). 

This Group, led by Professor Amir Hussain (Depute-Leader: Assoc.Prof. Alistair Lawson), aims to advance and integrate cross-disciplinary, problem-driven research across Data-Science, AI and Cybersecurity Data-Analytics. It includes the application of Data-Science and Cyber-Security research to address real-world, data-driven challenges of national and international importance, and high-societal and industrial impact. The Group (comprising 12-academics and 10+ post/doctoral researchers), provides a stimulating and supportive environment for its members, with personalised-mentoring and peer-support for innovative research and enterprise activities. Regular networking-opportunities stimulate open and constructive-exchange of ideas, including through Sandpit-style Seminars/Workshops (led by both Data-users and innovators), and world-leading Summer-Schools and Conferences (e.g. forthcoming IEEE WCCI2020 - These help maximise cross-disciplinary collaboration-opportunities across the University, nationally and globally, and enable Group-members and participants to tap into huge funding-opportunities these connections will present, e.g. through National Innovation-Centres, East-of-Scotland KTP-Centre, RCUK Global-Challenges Research-Fund (GCRF), Innovate/Industrial Challenge Research-Fund, UN-Global goals etc. 

Subject-areas include: Data-Science; AI and Machine-Learning(ML); Cyber-Analytics and Cyber-Security; Cognitive and Autonomous-Systems; Explainable-AI/ML; Adversarial and Transferable AI/ML; more-natural UX and HCI-design; Natural-Language Processing & Generation(NLP/G); Multi-modal Big Data-Analytics; Sentiment/Emotion & Opinion-Mining; Social-Multimedia & Dialogue/Argumentative-Analysis; Smart and Secure 5G-IoT-enabled AI-applications [ smart-cities, health-technologies, social/assistive-robotics and artificial-companions, population and personalised e-&m-healthcare, clinical-&bio-informatics, remote-sensing, smart-farming/agriculture, transportation, e-learning, Space-technologies, built-environment, FinTech & Aqua-culture etc.]

IoT and Networked Systems

The IoT and Networked Systems Research Group led by Professor Ahmed Al-Dubai aims to develop local human capital in the field of IoT and future networks. The INS group conducts high quality research, in collaboration with national and international academic and leading industrial partners. The group conducts high quality and impactful research and fosters innovation and collaboration by development of tech-based products and services. In addition, the group supports tech-based entrepreneurship ventures, potential projects connection in collaboration with national and international partners.

The research of the group is interdisciplinary across the system level and the application and services level. The group members are well established in supervising PhD students and report their findings in world leading journals and conferences proceedings. The group has 10 PhD students, 9 academic staff and is keen to attract distinguished PhD applicants with a special emphasis on the following topics: 

  • IoT algorithms/protocols
  • Sensing & wireless technologies
  • Cloud and Software Defended Networks (SDN)
  • Cognitive IoT and 5G
  • IoT and multimodal approaches
  • Smart Cities and applications: e-health, intelligent transportation, monitoring, etc.
  • High mobility networks and vehicular communications
  • Security in IoT and networked systems
  • Energy-efficient communications

Computing Education Research

The Centre for Computing Education research is the focus for a wide range of pedagogic research undertaken across the School of Computing. Our research encompasses computing education theories and practice; employability, graduate skills, student work placements, work-based learning and degree/graduate apprenticeships; technology-enhanced learning; student transitions in through and out of university education; and the linguistics of computing education. Our external projects include e-Placement Scotland and Digital Skills Partnership where our research outputs act to influence computing education. Our research group comprises 8 academics, 2 research fellows and PhD students. We are one of the founding members of the ACM Coalition of Computing Education Research Groups.

Interaction Design and Creativity

The Interaction Design and Creativity (IDC) Research Group has a focus on creative practice, methods of design and prototyping. Examples of research themes within the IDC research group are: Mapping Spaces and Places - emotional response to place and how this can be mediated with and through technology; the Creation and Consumption of Data - how interaction can create novel products, services leading to the development of new modalities of experience; Speculative Design - how design can enable the imagining of possible futures and our relationship with technology and interaction with and for children and under-represented communities.

The IDC group is led by Dr. Michael Smyth and externally funded projects held within the group are as follows: Creative Informatics (AHRC Creative Industries Cluster Programme) and SpeculativeEDU (Erasmus+) There are two laboratory spaces associated with the group, the Sensorium a purpose built user experience and evaluation suite and a dedicated design and prototyping space associated with the Creative Informatics project.

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