Sensor rich pervasive environments continue to emerge, driven by developments in the Internet of Things, providing evermore cost-effective off-the-shelf sensing solutions for continuous, unobtrusive monitoring of user habits and activities of daily living . These technologies have been deployed within environments to learn behaviour patterns, to infer personalised needs or to assess wellbeing, and to facilitate timely support via targeted technology interventions .
Such technology offers particular opportunities to address the unmet needs of those people in society who find it difficult to self-management, self-assess and self-regulate important wellbeing factors, for example, people on the autism spectrum.
This project aims to investigate emerging machine learning approaches to support monitoring and interpretation of human emotion based on data that is opportunistically sensed  at time critical instances. A key challenge lies in interpreting these emotions within varying contexts, when presented with different levels of granularity owing to the richness of the available sensors.
The research will target emotions relating to stress and anxiety, to provide interventions that empower users to recognise and regulate stressful episodes. The research will investigate a range of environmental and wearable sensors to monitor key wellness factors via assessment of heart rate variability , in combination with Affective Computing techniques and important contextual factors (e.g. schedule, routine, dietary intake, deadlines, engagement with games, social media, etc.). The work will also look to make use of established intervention strategies for negative emotional state, such as guided parasympathetic breathing.
The core objectives of this research will focus upon:
(1) opportunistically sensing the onset of an environmental stressor;
(2) computational modelling of the emotional responses;
(3) investigating multimodal and multidimensional approaches to deliver targeted interventions.
A use case available to the project surrounds in-situ mobile assistive technology to support young people on the autism spectrum as they commence University. Transitioning from Secondary School to University is a significant period in a young person’s life, in particular, for people with autism, who report difficulties in self-regulation of emotion, adjustment to changes in environment and routine, and who often cannot clearly interpret or communicate their feelings .
This research aligns with research priorities identified by the Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing Autism Research Hub and could leverage existing collaborations with Clinical Psychology networks across the Health Trusts. An identified route for participant engagement within the project exists via Ulster’s Student Support Centre. This proposal fits with the University’s strategic theme of Healthy Communities and closely aligns with the Pervasive Computing Research Group, focusing upon research within the areas of Activity Recognition, Behaviour Analysis and Affective Computing. The project benefits from access to a range of existing pervasive and wearable sensing technologies.
The supervisory team has expertise and experience in both the theory surrounding the work and its application to support people on the autism spectrum.
- To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:
Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)
Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)
Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)
Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Department for the Economy (DFE)
The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies
The Doctoral College at Ulster University
As Senior Engineering Manager of Analytics at Seagate Technology I utilise the learning from my PhD ever day
Adrian Johnston - PhD in InformaticsWatch Video
I received the bachelor’s of engineering degree in computer science and technology from Shangrao Normal University, Jiangxi, China, in 2013; and the master’s degree in computer application and technology from the School of Mathematics and Computer Science, Fujian Normal University, China. When I was pursuing a PhD degree at Ulster University, I continued my research on face recognition and image representation.This long journey has only been possible due to the constant support and encouragement of my first supervisor. I also like to thank my second supervisor for his patience, support and guidance during my research studies. My favourite memory was the days of exercising, gathering and playing with my friends here. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be "submit more papers to Journals instead of conferences".
Xin Wei - PhD in Computer Science and Informatics
In the whole PhD ordeal, my supervisory team played a tremendous role:- they are three in a million. They are perfect supervisors who perfectly know which milestones or pathways to be taken during research initiatives, and they understand the roles of virtually all stages in the journey of PhD. They showcased superior abilities in managing and motivating me evoking high standards; demonstrating a commitment to excellence. Jane and Haiying guided me as their daughter and Fiona turned out to be the best of friends.I heard from “Eleanor Roosevelt” that “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” The dream with which I grew up to become a Doctor one day, has finally come true. In the journey of PhD, I embraced that a PhD is not just the highest degree in Education but rather it is a life experience where perseverance is the key. I can never forget words from my external examiner Prof Yike Guo, from Imperial College London. His words
Jyotsna Talreja Wassan - PhD in Computer Science and Informatics