Conversational user interfaces or ‘chatbots’, accessible via ‘smart’ speakers’ or social media ‘direct messaging’ are software applications that engage in interactions with humans, either to automate task-related interactions, such as booking a table at a restaurant, or to engage in chat for purposes such as entertainment or companionship. The demands on chatbots to have a capability to understand the conversation with humans is opening up new research avenues as the topics of conversation turn to mental health and as digital natives seek answers in anonymity from chatbots on their phones and in their homes.
This PhD research will explore the different perspectives on how computers as chatbots interact with humans. People relate to and appreciate if an interaction with a machine is designed to take account of their ‘humanness’. This is the Computer As Social Agent (CASA) perspective. Another perspective is the Uncanny Valley of Mind (UVM) perspective, where the machine is very human-like but with some slight defect and this makes a human uncomfortable without necessarily knowing why.
The PhD study will build experiments using chatbot development frameworks employing these UVM and CASE perspectives and will explore which interaction paradigms work best with people, across ‘smart’ speakers’ and social media ‘direct messaging’ modalities. The work builds on a significant track record of success at Ulster University in chatbot research, including European, UK and Northern Ireland funding.
This is an opportunity to be part of a growing interdisciplinary research team in this exciting area, with researchers from computer science, psychology, and business researchers in the University all contributing to the team.
- 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 £15,500 (tbc) 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 £7,750 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 £ 15,500 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). 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 started my PhD at Ulster University after I received the master degree in computer application and technology from the School of Mathematics and Computer Science, Fujian Normal University, China. My research interests are feature extraction, face verification and pattern recognition.The proudest moments of my PhD when my papers were accepted by journals and I received my PhD certificate. It is a long journey to pursue a PhD, I couldn't have got through this without the constant support, help and encouragement from my supervisors and friends. Many thanks all of them.
Huan Wan - PhD in Computer Science and Informatics
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
After master’s degree, I joined the Artificial Intelligence Research Group in the School of Computing at Ulster University to pursue my PhD. I would like to thank my supervisors for their guidance, invaluable advice, encouragement and support throughout my PhD.My proudest moments were when my research papers were accepted in prestigious conferences and journals. I feel accomplished about the six first-author publications from my doctoral research. Also, I have had the honour of receiving the Best Student Paper Award at the 2018 International FLINS Conference.I love travelling; my favourite memories were travelling to present my research in addition to getting the opportunity to meet leading researchers from different parts of the world. And I couldn't have achieved this without the support of my friends and family.
Niloofer Shanavas - PhD in Computer Sciences 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