PhD Studentship - Control System for Nonverbal Behaviour in Virtual Humans

Birmingham, West Midlands
07 Jun 2018
End of advertisement period
07 Jul 2018
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Applications are invited for a three year Postgraduate studentship, supported by the School of Engineering and Applied Science, to be undertaken within the Computer Science Research Group at Aston University. The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on interactive virtual human systems and biologically grounded Human-Computer-Interaction.

The position is available to start in October 2018 (subject to negotiation)

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the home/EU fees rate plus a maintenance allowance of £14,777 in 2018/19.

Applicants from outside the EU may apply for this studentship but will need to pay the difference between the ‘Home/EU’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees, currently this is £12,290 in 2018/19.

Confirmation that this funding support is in place will be required as part of the application process.

Background of the Project

Focus of the project is the development and evaluation of a control system for the nonverbal behaviour of virtual humans. Recent advances in computer graphics have made it possible that virtual humans look extremely realistic. However, many aspects of the “brains” for virtual humans are still relatively underdeveloped, and there is an unmet need for control architectures supporting real-time social interaction behaviour. The control system developed in the project will be based on principles of control theory and neurocomputation and will regulate the nonverbal interaction between the user and virtual human, i.e. chooses which behaviour of the virtual human is appropriate to achieve a given interaction goal. The system will be geared towards an application for social skills training (SST) based on a nonverbal behaviour, where a human user is interacting with a virtual human in real-time.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have a first class or upper second class honours degree or equivalent qualification in Computer Science, Engineering, Psychology or Biology.

The project is very interdisciplinary, and we are therefore looking for a candidate with a background in computer science/engineering with a strong interest in psychological concepts or a background in psychology/biology with a strong technical proficiency. Candidates should have the skills to implement technical systems and to think at the conceptual/psychological level. However, the most important requirement is enthusiasm for building biologically grounded interactive computer system.

We would particularly like to encourage application from women seeking to progress their academic careers. Aston University is committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recently recognised by a prestigious Silver Award to EAS, and we pride ourselves on our vibrant, friendly and supportive environment and family atmosphere.

For informal enquiries about this project and other opportunities within the Computer Science Research Group, contact Ulysses Bernardet by email at

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at

The online application form, reference forms and details of entry requirements, including English language are available here. Applications must be accompanied by a research proposal giving an overview of the main themes of the research, and explaining how your knowledge and experience will benefit the project.

Details of how to write your project proposal are included in the How to Apply section,

Closing Date: 15 June 2018

Further particulars and application forms are available in alternative formats on request i.e. large print, Braille, tape or CD Rom.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact HR via