School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering
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  1. PhD Topics
School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering

PhD Topics

We invite high-calibre students with a passion for research to join us and study for a PhD. Potential PhD topics are outlined below. If you are interested in one of these, please contact the named supervisor or Stephanie Wilson, Senior Tutor for Research in HCID. Note that there is no funding attached to these topics: applicants must make separate arrangements to fund their studies.

Full details of the application process are available online. On your application form, please state that you wish to be considered for admission to the Centre for HCI Design, Dept. of Computer Science.

Artificial Intelligence in everyday life

Supervisor: Dr. Alex Taylor

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing an increasingly important role not just in hyped up technologies like robots and self-driving cars, but in the technologies many of us use, daily. Everything from social networking services to voice activated agents are incorporating AI to model behaviours, interpret needs, and respond, adaptively. Surprisingly, perhaps, it’s through this much more mundane uptake of AI that we find ourselves amidst profound changes to how computing entangles in and shapes our lives—from how we form identities and sustain communities, to ideas of work and labour. Thus, it’s beyond the hyperbole that we need to develop ways of taking the developments in AI seriously and deepening our understanding of what exactly its impact might be. We need to understand how computation and AI are making very particular kinds of worlds possible. And, through these understandings, we need to consider how design can be responsive to and responsible for these worlds-in-the-making. Prospective PhD students interested in any aspect of AI and its proliferation in daily life are sought under this area. Technical skills are not a requirement, and students may come from a diversity of academic backgrounds, including computer science, HCI, design, psychology, sociology, and science and technology studies (STS).

End User Interfaces for the Internet of Things (IoT)

Supervisor: Dr. Simone Stumpf

The opportunities for end users to create their own systems and services through the Internet of Things are increasing. However, at the same time, this gives rise to new challenges in the way that these systems and services are developed. This project will investigate new development paradigms and interfaces for the IoT which are usable and useful for end users without an advanced knowledge of programming. This work is likely to leverage previous research in end-user programming and end-user development.

Trust in Intelligent Systems

Supervisor: Dr. Simone Stumpf

Intelligent systems that make predictions are rarely 100% correct. Previous research has shown that explanations can increase the intelligibility of these systems and can help identify mistakes. Explanations also seem to have effects on judging the reliability of systems, with potentially harmful implications on misuse and disuse. This research will study the effects of explanations on trust in intelligent systems, in particular effective designs to support appropriate trust.

From Search to Discovery: Designing and Evaluating a 'Serendipity Engine'

Supervisor: Dr. Stephann Makri

Search engines are great at helping us find information when we know what we are looking for (either roughly or precisely), but they are not so useful in helping us find information where we do not know what we were looking for until we've found it. What we need are new technologies that support us in discovering useful information even when we are not directly searching or browsing for it - we need to move from designing search engines to designing engines that are capable of supporting both precise information search and less-precise information discovery. But how can we best achieve this through design? What role should the technology and the user play in the discovery? And how can we best evaluate the success of digital tools that support information discovery? Those are some of the questions you might choose to address in your PhD research.

Evaluation Beyond Usability

Supervisor: Dr. Stephann Makri

The UX practitioner's toolkit of User Inspection and Evaluation Methods has remained relatively similar for the past decade; e.g. consisting of Think-aloud studies, Heuristic Evaluation, Expert Reviews, Cognitive Walkthroughs etc. Most of these existing HCI methods focus on evaluating usability (rather than other aspects of the User Experience). Can and should we design useful new methods that move beyond usability to cover the broad User Experience? Rather than evaluate only the interface and interaction design, can we also find useful ways of assessing the visual design and/or Information Architecture? Can and should we design useful new methods that move beyond traditional evaluation success criteria such as usability, usefulness and learnability to cover emotive success criteria such as (positive) surprise, delight or engagement? If yes, how can we best achieve this?

Dyslexia and Information Retrieval: The Role of Memory and Impact on the Search Process

Supervisors: Dr. Andy MacFarlane

Apart from research into blind and partially sighted users, there has been very little work on the problems that people with disabilities have in accessing information through either navigation or directed search. One sizeable group is dyslexic users who are estimated to constitute around 10% of the population. These users have significant problems with short-term memory, which impacts on their ability to engage with text. One of the key findings of work done at City is the impact of memory on the search process – where a link was identified between the number of documents judged to be irrelevant and short-term memory abilities. This project will investigate the role of memory for dyslexic users and propose methods and/or technology which help such users with their short-term memory problems.

Aphasia and Search: An Investigation into the Information Needs and Information Seeking of Users with Language Impairments

Supervisors: Dr. Andy MacFarlane, Stephanie Wilson

People with language impairments have been largely ignored when it comes to research into information seeking. One such impairment is aphasia, an acquired language disorder that results from brain injury, commonly as a consequence of a stroke. People with aphasia find it very difficult to use language, either spoken or written, and can be isolated and cut off from the rest of society. Such users may avoid technology such as information retrieval systems, finding the technology inaccessible as it does not meet their needs. City has a track record through the Eva Park project of encouraging people with aphasia to engage with technology. This project will investigate the information behaviour of people with aphasia to establish how their information needs can be fulfilled, and how information seeking and searching can be encouraged through information retrieval technologies.

Accessible Interaction Design for People with Language Impairments

Supervisor: Stephanie Wilson

Guidance regarding accessible interaction design for people with language impairments is limited and is typically based on guidance for printed materials. Research in HCID on a series of projects (notably EVA and GeST) has delivered novel digital technologies that are demonstrably accessible to people with aphasia, a language impairment, and has produced preliminary accessibility guidelines for this user population. This project will extend this work. It will entail thorough empirical work to investigate the accessibility of various interaction paradigms and the potential development of new interaction techniques.