Summary

Brain Computer Interface (BCI) (Brunner et al, 2015) offers interaction and communication using thought processes without the need for explicit physical manipulation, giving rise to a powerful assistive technology. Within the BCI research community there have been significant technical advancements in terms of the signal processing, electrodes, and applications. However, a truly robust BCI is still elusive and techniques used need to be matched and tailored to the user. Zander & Jatzev (2012) highlight the differences in environment between the BCI computer laboratory, clinical and home settings for BCI use and point to a context aware system as a possible solution.

The following issues may influence operation of the BCI:

1. Understanding the environment through IoT sensing to attain better BCI control of smart devices, e.g. using proximity together with a BCI command to actuate a device. For example, ‘dim the nearest light bulb’, ‘close the curtains’.

2. Building an ontology that reflects IoT environment and BCI user state. The ontology can share understanding of the structure of information among people or software agents (Protégé).

3. Sharing autonomy between the user of the BCI and smart devices to determine the context of a task and hence provide improved actuation (Coogan & He, 2018, Zhang et al, 2019).

4. Using passive (affective) BCI components to provide context for human performance: How the user is feeling or how long they have been using the BCI? (Zander & Kothe, 2011).

Robustness and fitness for purpose degrades over time. With online adaptation on-going parameters extracted from the EEG and the session are used to provide updates to the classifier. Such systems may be able to respond to some transient and temporal conditions within the EEG and this calibration may quickly become outdated due external and physical factors. The objective of this PhD is to determine and use factors, input modalities and smart devices to help in the continual re-adjustment of the BCI system to best meet the tasks, needs and characteristics of the user.

References;

Clemens Brunner, Niels Birbaumer, Benjamin Blankertz et al (2015) BNCI Horizon 2020: towards a roadmap for the BCI community, Brain-Computer Interfaces, 2:1, 1-10C.

G. Coogan and B. He, "Brain-Computer Interface Control in a Virtual Reality Environment and Applications for the Internet of Things," in IEEE Access, vol. 6, pp. 10840-10849Protégé, https://protege.stanford.edu/publications/ontology_development/ontology101-noy-mcguinness.html

Zander T.O., Kothe C. Towards passive brain-computer interfaces: applying brain-computer interface technology to human-machine systems in general. J Neural Eng, 8:025005, 2011

Zander, T.O., Jatzev, S. & (2012). Context-aware brain-computer interfaces: exploring the information space of user, technical system and environment. J Neural Eng. 2012 Feb;9(1):016003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22156069X.

Zhang, L. Yao, S. Zhang, S. Kanhere, M. Sheng and Y. Liu, "Internet of Things Meets Brain–Computer Interface: A Unified Deep Learning Framework for Enabling Human-Thing Cognitive Interactivity," in IEEE Internet of Things Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 2084-2092, April 2019.


Essential criteria

  • 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.
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Applicants will be shortlisted if they have an average of 75% or greater in a first (honours) degree (or a GPA of 8.75/10). For applicants with a first degree average in the range of 70% to 74% (GPA 3.3): If they are undertaking an Masters, then the average of their first degree marks and their Masters marks will be used for shortlisting.

Funding

    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


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Adrian Johnston

As Senior Engineering Manager of Analytics at Seagate Technology I utilise the learning from my PhD ever day

Adrian Johnston - PhD in Informatics

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Profile picture of Xin Wei

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


Profile picture of Jyotsna Talreja Wassan

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