ESRC interdisciplinary studentship: Combining dance and robotics to study emotion perception

The Project

The overarching aim of this PhD project is to develop a library of naturalistic emotional movements generated by expert dancers, and then implement and test the communicative value of these movements in artificial agents in naturalistic social settings. This studentship is richly interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from the social sciences, performing arts and engineering to tackle a major challenge that falls under the remit of the RCUK Digital Economy theme: namely, to improve artificial agents’ social acceptance and usability by providing them with emotionally expressive behaviours that are instantly readable by human interaction partners. This project comprises three main studies, with the first two primarily involving social sciences research (with performing arts elements as well), and the third study combining knowledge generated from the social sciences and performing arts with computing science. For the first third of the project, the student will work closely with the Scottish National Ballet and motion tracking technology to create and validate a rich library of emotions expressed via bodily movement. Next, the student will develop expertise with quantitative and qualitative behavioural methods (including eye tracking, self-report measures of affective valence), as well as working with different participant samples (expert and naïve dancers) to further identify how emotion is expressed via bodily movements, and which elements of a body in motion convey the most meaningful information about a mover’s emotion. The final third of the project applies insights gained from the first two parts to the computing science and robotics world, by implementing insights gained into the movements and behaviour of physically present robots and virtual representations of avatars. Together, the project provides an ideal and exciting opportunity to train a PhD student who is equipped with the theoretical and technical skills to work between the social sciences, arts, and technology.

Academic Environment

The School of Psychology at the University of Glasgow brings together world-leading expertise in experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, functional neuroimaging, neuropsychology and computational modelling in order to advance the understanding of behaviour and the brain. Researchers are grouped across the School of Psychology, the Centre of Cognitive Neuroimaging and the Centre for Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (cSCAN) (the latter two in the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology).

Facilities include state-of-the-art devices for studies into brain processes and mental activities (including visual cognition laboratories, eye-trackers, EEG labs, TMS labs, an fMRI and MEG scanner, and major computing facilities), all within one unit. We are an internationally renowned School and Centre and were ranked joint 1st in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (among all UK Universities based on research intensity). This leads to an excellent environment for a thriving postgraduate community and interdisciplinary science.



Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria

  • A good first degree (1st class preferred) in psychology
  • Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of classical dance
  • Have experience running at least one type of psychophysiological experiment (eye tracking or EMG preferred).
  • Have a good grounding in running experiments independently, including implementing experimental protocols in programmes such as Experiment Builder or PsychToolBox for MATLAB.

Students must additionally meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here*:


The Award

The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training.  This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process.  The programme will commence in October 2018. It includes

  • an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate (2018/19 rate £14,777 full-time)
  • fees at the standard Home rate
  • students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year

How to Apply

All applicants should complete and collate the following documentation then attach to a single email and send to by 12 noon on Monday, 18 June 2018.

a) Academic Transcript(s)

Full academic transcript(s) from previous studies (undergraduate and postgraduate).

b) 2 x references

On official headed notepaper and signed by referees.

References given to candidates in sealed envelopes should be opened, scanned and attached to the email.

References must be emailed directly to by referees via their official University email address; clearly labelling the reference e.g. “John Smith XX Scholarship Reference”

c) Copy of CV

d) Applicant statement An additional 1-page statement by applicants explaining the alignment of their prior experiences and interest in taking up this studentship is required to be submitted along with the rest of the application materials.

 e) Scottish Graduate School for Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership Equal Opportunities Form

Any application which fails to meet the above requirements will not be considered.

 Selection Process

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by Tuesday, 19 June. Interviews will take place either the week of 19 June or 2 July, 2018.

All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the University of Glasgow’s School of Psychology.  Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.