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Two fully funded PhD positions in Digital Health and Human Computer Interaction at Northumbria University

I am looking for two new PhD students to join me at Northumbria University from October 2019. The deadline for applications is the 25th January 2019.

The studentships are available to UK and EU students. A full stipend will be paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2018/19, this is £14,777 pa) and full fees.

The first position is with me as lead supervisor and will focus on personal tracking and mental health. The second is an interdisciplinary position led by Abigail Durrant in the Northumbria School of Design, and co-supervised by myself and Jon Bird (University of Bristol). Details for both positions are below.

I’m happy to be contacted about these informally before the deadline.

Personal tracking technology for managing mental health via physical activity

Lead supervisor: John Rooksby (Computer and Information Sciences, Northumbria)

Apps and wearables for promoting walking, running and cycling are now commonplace but their designs do not typically focus on the mental health benefits of engaging in physical activity. Most of these technologies are designed to persuade users to hit goals or follow routines that are relevant to reducing the risks associated with obesity and/or for making physical improvements. If mental health is considered, it is typically in a secondary and sometimes reductive way.

There is a growing body of evidence in the health literature on the benefits of physical activity for mental health. For example, there is strong evidence that walking can reduce depression and anxiety. Physical activity is consistently associated with positive mood, and there is some evidence it can help improve self-esteem, reduce social isolation and prevent and reduce stress. Yet current technologies do not promote or directly support physical activity for these ends.

In this research you will design, create and evaluate technology for managing and improving mental health and wellbeing via physical activity. Challenges to address include:

  • Conducting user research among people that would benefit from or already do physical activity to manage their mental health.
  • Designing novel interfaces that combine the quantification of physical activity with mental health data in meaningful and compelling ways.
  • Creating acceptable and usable approaches for tracking mental health via automated data collection as well as self-report.
  • Addressing whether social features and other functionality are desirable and helpful.
  • Identifying and operationalising appropriate evaluation methods such as n-of-1 designs for supporting self-experimentation and individualised feedback.
  • Developing novel mobile applications or other relevant technology and trialling these in the wild with relevant users.

The work should be approached from the perspective of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and may suit someone with a background in computing, design or psychology.

More information:

Designing Interoperable Web Tools for Group Decision Making on Personal Health Data Sharing

Lead supervisor: Dr Abigail Durrant (School of Design, Northumbria)

Co-supervisors: Dr John Rooksby (Computing and Information Sciences, Northumbria), Dr Jon Bird (University of Bristol)

As interactions with data become an increasingly inherent feature of everyday life, including through health management and lifestyle tracking, it is likely that citizens’ concerns for the trusted sharing and privacy of this data will continue to increase and evolve. Crucially, experiences related to breaches of personal privacy are particularly challenging for those living with long-term and potentially stigmatising conditions. Yet, the particular nature and extent of such challenges are only starting to be understood.

The potential for patient-generated data to be used to improve healthcare provision and the management of conditions is recognised by healthcare providers and citizens, as is the potential value of collecting and processing patient-generated data at scale. However, the communication of individuals’ personal data about their ‘health’ and ‘lifestyle’ for health management, and the processing of such data, remains a socio-technical challenge, especially when further considering interoperability in electronic patient record systems and communicative resources. Also challenging is the design of useable interfaces to support such systems, for those sharing their data to self-manage a condition, and for clinicians and others to interact with. One question pertinent to research in this context is how individuals make sense of what data they should share, with whom, and when. Another question is how such individuals may be supported in making decisions on sharing their personal data in a digital health context.

This PhD studentship opportunity responds to this challenge from an applied, design-led perspective. It explores the interaction design challenges for supporting individuals to make group decisions on sharing their personal data for healthcare management, using interfaces to interoperable digital systems and services. Design development will use FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), a web architecture and open health record framework that has been adopted by the NHS and uses web standards to reduce the complexity of developing care systems. The PhD candidate will bring technical skills in web development and interaction design, and will have a strong interest in developing skills in conducting user research from a human-centred and inclusive design perspective.

More information: