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AISB opportunities Bulletin Item

PhD studentship on Social and Humanoid Robots, U of Herts

PhD Studentship

Science and Technology Research Institute
University of Hertfordshire, UK

Applications are invited from candidates with excellent first degrees in
computer science to join a project on "Social and Humanoid Robots as
Assistants and Companions" as research student for a three year period.

Successful candidates may be eligible for a research studentship award from
the University (equivalent to 13,290 per annum bursary plus the payment of
the standard UK student fees).

Applicants selected for these studentships will be supervised by Prof.
Kerstin Dautenhahn and her collaborators and will work as part of the
Adaptive Systems Research Group at University of Hertfordshire.

Contact for informal inquiries: Prof. Kerstin Dautenhahn

Human-Robot Interaction is a quickly growing research area with a number of
applications in assistive technology and service robotics. The research team
at University of Hertfordshire led by Prof. Dautenhahn is involved in two
European projects relevant to this field, namely ROBOSKIN (where robots
serve a assistive OEtoys for children with special needs) and LIREC (where
we study robots as long-term companions e.g. in the homes of elderly
people). A key research issue relevant to both projects concerns the
adaptation of the robots behaviour e.g. to the individual needs and
preferences of the person. A personalized robot companion needs to know its
users, and be able to adapt in long-term interaction.

The PhD project will focus of the topic of social learning and adaptation,
i.e. will develop the robots ability to be taught by its user, and to learn
socially by observing and analyzing the interaction. Such research is
strongly inspired by biology and psychology concerning the way how humans
and other animals learn from each other by observation, interaction and
communication. Another area of inspiration comes from developmental
psychology since infants learn many new skills in interaction with their
caretakers. The group has a strong track record in the area of imitation and
social learning. The PhD student will develop new social learning and
adaptation algorithms, as well as participate in the preparation,
implementation and analysis of human-robot interaction studies. Depending on
the students abilities and interests, the focus of the PhD research could
be either on assistive technology (cf. our work on robot-assisted play for
children with autism or on home companions
(service robots).

The PhD student will be part of a larger research team consisting of
researchers working in the above mentioned European projects, as well as
other research group members.  The PhD student will have the opportunity to
work with state of the art humanoid robots, including KASPAR
( which was developed by our research group.

Applicants are required to have a strong first degree or Masters degree in
Computer Science, Robotics or a related area relevant to the project. An
additional background in human-computer interaction, cognitive science or
psychology is highly desirable. Excellent programming skills are essential
(including C++), the ability to interface robot  sensors and develop
software on robots is a necessary requirement of this studentship, as well
as a general interest in interdisciplinary research and willingness to
collaborate with researchers from other disciplines. The ideal candidate
will be self-motivated with good writing and communication skills.

The Science and Technology Research Institute provides a very stimulating
environment, offering a large number of specialized and interdisciplinary
seminars as well as general training opportunities.

Note, all applications must be made formally via our Research Office as
specified in the advert above, quote Reference 16 for the topic of Social
and Humanoid Robots as Assistants and Companions. An application form can
be obtained from Mrs Lorraine Nicholls, Research Student Administrator,
STRI, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, University of
Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield, Herts, AL10 9AB, UK. Tel: +44 (0)
1707 286083, email: The short-listing process will
begin on 20 November 2009. Interviews will be held in the second week in
December 2009.