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Fully funded PhD Studentship in HCI at UCL & Microsoft: Designing Apps that teach you how to use them

Division of Psychology

UCL, Gower Street, London, UK


  • Posted on: 07th Oct 2021
  • Funding amount: Funding Available
  • Funding for: EU Students, International Students, UK Students
  • REF: 1879557
  • Closes: 30th November 2021
  • Hours: Full Time

Vacancy Information

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship at the UCL Interaction Centre, funded by a Microsoft and EPSRC iCASE studentship, for up to 4 years. Minimum enhanced stipend of 22,109 per annum, plus fees. Start date is flexible between January and September 2022.

Supervisors: Prof Duncan Brumby (UCL), Dr Advait Sarkar (Microsoft Research), and Prof Anna Cox (UCL).

Studentship Description

We are looking for a PhD student to join us in an exciting collaboration between Microsoft Research and UCL investigating how to improve the design of state-of-the-art computer software. Modern desktop, web, and mobile apps can be incredibly complex. We want users to learn and understand applications to take full advantage and be empowered by them. Software developers use many tools (e.g., embedded tutorial videos and pop-up dialogs) to offer help and introduce new features. If done right, this is an empowering moment for the user, who learns something new and useful. If done wrong, it is frustrating and can be an irrelevant distraction that results in decreased user trust and satisfaction. This PhD will conduct fundamental research to improve our knowledge of when to deliver teaching and learning prompts in feature-rich software. The results will have profound implications for how we design trustworthy tutorials for all feature-rich software.

You will be equally co-supervised by Microsoft and UCL. Your PhD will involve the opportunity to work closely with Microsoft to shape the roadmap of Microsoft products used by millions worldwide. The Microsoft and EPSRC iCASE studentship includes a generous stipend. Some PhD students may also be offered an internship in one of the Microsoft Research laboratories. Internships involve working on a project alongside and as part of a team of Microsoft researchers.

Application Procedure

Applicants should submit their applications via UCL Select by 5pm Tuesday 30 November 2021. Please note that the application portal will open in early November. If you would like to register your interest in applying, please email Clare Casson and we will contact you in early November to let you know when the application portal is open. When you submit your application, please notify Louise Gaynor with your application number.

Applications must include:

1. Research proposal (max. 4 pages): a summary of relevant literature to motivate a research question and a description of the type of research you would want to conduct (including ideas about the methodology and data analysis that could be used). For more guidance on writing a research proposal, please see How to Write a Successful Research Proposal and General Guidance Notes for Research Proposals.

2. Personal statement (max. 1 page): a statement on why you want to do a PhD and how your skills and experience meet the person specification outlined above.

3. References: Name and email contact details of two referees.

4. Academic transcripts.

5. C.V.

Interviews will take place around Tuesday 14 December 2021.

For an informal conversation about the project, please contact Prof Duncan Brumby (UCL), Dr Advait Sarkar (Microsoft Research), or Prof Anna Cox (UCL). For queries regarding the application process please contact Dr Louise Gaynor.

Person Specification

Applicants should be interested in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and must possess a strong Bachelors or Masters degree in a related discipline (e.g., Computer Science, HCI, Psychology). The ideal candidate for this project will be equipped with the necessary technical skills to conduct research using one or more of empirical methods (i.e., quantitative experiments conducted in the lab or qualitative observational studies). Good programming skills, experience of software development or analytical models, and relevant previous research experience are also desirable.


To be considered for this scholarship applicants need to be meet the eligibility requirements defined by the UK Research and Innovation (please see linked document). In particular, any applicants classed as a home student would be eligible for funding; applicants classed as an International student could be eligible for funding in exceptional circumstances and would require an Overseas Doctoral Award (for example, if a candidate has an outstanding track record of very relevant research, including publications in top-tier venues). Please refer to the linked document for definitions of home and international student.

Contact name

Prof Duncan Brumby

Contact details


UCL Taking Action for Equality

Closing Date

30 Nov 2021

Latest time for the submission of applications


Interview date

Around Tuesday 14 December 2021.

Studentship Start Date

Flexible between January and September 2022.

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