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Award details

Sensor to Senses. Science, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship, PhD Studentship (Funded) Ref: 4129

About the award


Exeter Academic Lead: Prof Saeema Ahmed-Kristensen, Business School

Queensland Academic Lead: Dr Chelsea Dobbins, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

Join a world-leading, cross-continental research team

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants.  The studentship provides funding for up to 42 months (3.5 years).

Eight generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, four offered by the University of Exeter and four by the University of Queensland. This select group will spend at least one year at each University and will graduate with a joint degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Project Description

Digital technologies have the possibility to disrupt many industries, enabling digital innovation and also impacting industries, organisation, individuals.   Through understanding the experiences of a user, their lies an opportunity to not only to understand the impact of digital transformation but to drive digital transformation to be user or society-centric.  For example, to inform the design of smart building or to create customised consumer products that improve satisfaction and users experience.

This project brings together interdisciplinary research areas to explore these twin elements of digital change. The proposed project will seek to address some of the challenges and opportunities related to digital change, focusing upon individuals and user experience.

This project aims to develop novel methodologies to understand user experiences, combining contextual insights into users, together with the use of digital technologies to capture real-time data. Novel methods to understand user experiences, enable the possibility of a far richer, dynamic, diverse and inclusive set of data.  The project will include undertaking qualitative studies working closely with case partners and users, and also designing and conducting experiments to collect physiological data through smart devices/wearables to understand user emotions. The findings will be combined through the novel methods, advancing current design theories on emotional design, qualitative research of user experience, and contributing to digital technologies, and human-centred computing.

The research builds upon, and combines the expertise of Dr Dobbins, in deploying physiological sensors/mobile devices to measure emotions and Prof Ahmed-Kristensen, of understanding user experiences to inform the design of customised products. The QUEX partnership and cross-disciplinary teams affords the unique benefits of working both in U.K. and Australia and gaining research skill across these disciplines. UQ have world leading capabilities in the Empathic Extended Reality and Pervasive Computing Lab, and the University of Exeter, Business School, Initiative of Digital Economy, have the recently funded £12m DIGIT-Lab, UKRI Next Generation Digital Economy Centre, focusing upon digital transformation.

Further Information

Find out more about the PhD studentships

Successful applicants will have a strong academic background and track record to undertake research projects based in one of the three themes of:  Healthy Living, Global Environmental Futures and Digital Worlds and Disruptive Technologies.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 24 May 2021 (BST), with interviews taking place week commencing 12 July 2021. The start date is expected to be 10 January 2022.

Please note that of the eight Exeter led projects advertised, we expect that up to four studentships will be awarded to Exeter based students.

Entry requirements

Applicants should be highly motivated and have, or expect to obtain, either a first or a master's degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

How to apply

You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, supporting statement, academic transcripts and details of two academic referees. Your supporting statement should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project, with particular reference to the collaborative nature of the partnership with the University of Queensland, and how this will enhance your training and research.

Applicants who are chosen for interview will be notified week commencing 28 June 2021, and must be available for interview week commencing 12 July 2021.

Please quote reference 4129 on your application and in any correspondence about this studentship.


Application deadline:24th May 2021
Value:Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,609 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £10,715 are available over the 3.5 year studentship
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Admissions Office