Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) enables excellent Chinese students to obtain their PhD degrees at TU/e with a 4-year scholarship from the CSC. Students from all Chinese universities are eligible for this program. The program aims to foster long-term research co-operation between Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and Chinese universities. Students who receive a scholarship are provided with a living allowance as prescribed by the Chinese Government for the term of the scholarship, return airfare to the Netherlands by the most economical route, student visa fees and the cost of health insurance for international students.

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Introduction

Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is among the top 150 universities according to the QS Global World Ranking. It is located in a highly industrialized region, known as ‘Brainport’. This region is internationally recognized as a top technology area with a special focus on the integration of design and technology. The department of Industrial Design was established in close collaboration with the technological industry, and, because of this, focuses its research on the Design of Systems with Emerging Technologies in a Societal Context.

PhD program Industrial Design

Changing demographics and social structures are putting several key human values of modern society under serious pressure; these include social inclusion, sustainable healthcare and healthy ageing. Department of Industrial Design envisions a world where these fundamental human values are addressed through interactive and evolving product-service-systems. The goal is to empower people towards a state of complete physical, mental, emotional and social well-being, through the creation of interactive and (co-)evolving systems where future technologies and humans co-adapt to achieve qualities beyond utility and usability.

As a PhD student, you will work on research topics related to the aspects above by exploring future technology (Research-through-Design) through probing prototypes in everyday-life settings (e.g. Experiential Design Landscapes).

Expected Background

Applicants to this PhD research shall have a background in industrial design, digital arts and interactive media, human-computer interaction, computer science, information technology, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering and physics.

Research Topics

We are aiming at recruiting up to 4 CSC PhDs in 2022. The applicants can apply for one of the following research directions under different research clusters:

Future Everyday

The Future Everyday cluster investigates the everyday interactions between individual people and the highly interconnected technology that surrounds them. We measure, model and design for the user experience when individuals interact with social-technological networks in their homes, at work, in transit, while doing sport or going out.

  1. AIoT (Aesthetics of Intelligence in Things).

    • In the next 10 years, AI-based design innovations will appear in every context, from healthy living, healthcare, assistive technologies, to urban mobility, among other new emergent areas. These design innovations require new processes and methods to allow us to explore aesthetical experiences with connectivity as internet of things (IoT), data, and artificial intelligence (AI). To do so, the project explores aesthetics of intelligence that will play a critical role in how two pioneering innovations of IoT and AI will be combined. Aesthetics of intelligence refers to the integration of technical developments with ethical considerations and our emotional growth, in order to create meaningful aesthetical interactions over time, beyond short-term gains.
    • Hence, this PhD project aims to provide a designerly perspective on new aesthetic qualities and properties of IoT products. As a concrete example, consider a network of internet of things: a smart thermostat, smart speaker, and water bottle for collecting and sharing data for training for an AI-based functionality. So with this configuration, a smart speaker can learn to suggest to users to drink more water based on home temperature settings that are displayed on the water bottle. Yet, how do we move on from designing things, like water bottles and thermostats, to designing their connections?
    • To move towards designing aesthetic experiences as connections between systems, we consider the following questions. How can people co-design and talk with their everyday things rather than being mere end-users of these systems? What challenges would be faced by vulnerable populations, e.g., children, with the increasing growth of AI in the home? How can we fuse aesthetics, ethics, and technical product properties in a design approach for holistically ‘good’ products? How can design promote ethical use of AI in various application areas?
    • To pursue these research questions, we welcome applicants with diverse backgrounds in the broad area of design, such as industrial design, human-computer interaction, sociology, and psychology. Designerly making and prototyping skills and a keen interest in the ethics of technology are a plus.
  2. Investigating the everyday use of digital twins in home fermentation

    • This project examines how IoT technology and AI can support home fermentation practices for preparing food, such as sourdough bread making. The project shall investigate how to instrument, support and enhance the process of home fermentation using IoT technologies, and how to enrich the activities and emerging experiences through the use of AI. We shall develop and deploy a digital twin of this process.
    • While industrial-scale fermentation processes heavily involve quantifications and automation of the process, home fermentation is mostly manual, imprecise and relies heavily on human sensorial capabilities. This situation is however shifting thanks to citizen science and the emergence of affordable sensors, 3D printing and open-source platforms (e.g., Arduino). Fermentation provides a paradigmatic case for the study of the deployment, use and experience of digital twinning at a home environment. A digital twin is a virtual counterpart of a system or process that enables a real-time and two-way flow of data between the physical and virtual worlds, enabling predictions and experiments to be conducted on the digital representation of the real-world fermentation.
    • A DT tool is expected to support data-driven insights on the evolution and variation of fermentation processes over time and across different individuals and cultures. We are looking for PhD candidates with bachelor and master’s degrees in Bioprocessing Engineering, Biochemistry, Electrical Engineering, or relevant disciplines. The candidate will conceptualize and implement the digital twin and conduct field studies with it to analyse its potential.
    • Development of a Digital Twin [detail] Continuing with the example of sourdough bread making, the digital twin tool may comprise several connected smart devices, digital models of the physical entities and processes, and a dashboard. In this scenario, the connected smart objects collect data about the quality of sourdough starter and dough, the environmental factor and the dynamics over time as well as the activities including mixing, kneading, shaping, and baking. The sensing/actuating capability could be embedded in the cooking utensils directly being used in the process (e.g., bowls, containers, kneading boards) or in addition to those (e.g., simple texture characterization tools, DIY fermenters). By streaming the field data to a digital model of the dough, the bioprocess (e.g., kinetic growth of the microorganisms) and baking process that account for the environmental, temporal and interactional parameters, we will have a Digital Twin of the home-baking process. A dashboard then streams back the processed data in the form of comparison graphs, process report, notifications, suggestions of new techniques, to name just a few.

Systemic Change

The Systemic Change cluster focuses on designing innovations that have an impact on systemic structures and groups of people, ultimately aiming to address large-scale issues such as urban health, future mobility and sustainability. Field data is used in novel iterative and circular research-through-design processes involving strategic alliances of stakeholders.

  1. Developing design-based methodologies to envision and ethically assess emerging AI applications

    • Alongside exciting opportunities, distributed and embedded sensors, data, and AI are generating new threats for society in any field of application, related to, among others, privacy, discrimination, digital addiction, manipulation, and social distrust. The fast emergence and spread of new applications of such digital technologies leave society (governments, regulators, and policymakers) in the dark as to what guidelines or regulations should be put in place to limit their potential downsides.
    • Anticipating and understanding the systemic repercussions of emerging technology on society is not possible with current approaches, which focus on damage control, instead of prevention of social negative impacts. General guidelines for prevention are starting to emerge, such as the ones promoted by the European Union in June 2020 on ethical policies for AI, which recommend performing an ethical technology assessment (eTA) before deploying AI systems. According to these guidelines, eTAs should be run by applied ethicists, in conversation with technology experts or policymakers, and should result in ‘accountability reports’, rather than preventive actions or regulations. However, there is little to no indication on how to facilitate conversations between ethicists, technologists, and policymakers, and how to encourage (private or public) stakeholders to turn accountability reports into preventive actions or regulations. Design can intervene in this space, by envisioning and communicating future scenarios that depict opportunities and risks of AI, to facilitate conversations among different actors and to persuade them to take action.

    • This doctoral research will explore the development and adoption of ad-hoc design methods, based on design fiction, scenarios creation, and storytelling techniques, as a way to support ethicists in identifying and envisioning social risks, generate communicable future scenarios, facilitate conversations among different stakeholders, and foster preventive actions. The research will include the identification of specific application fields (e.g. distributed healthcare and AI-based diagnosis, AI agents as informal caregivers) to be used as case studies.
  2. Design with Localized AI for Vital Lifestyle

    • We aim to significantly contribute to people’s well-being by applying the qualities of design. We investigate the power of the physicality and aesthetic qualities of products, combined with intelligence and data, to help people change their lifestyles. We design solutions that fit this context and meet people’s needs, routines, capabilities and values. We design systems that, unobtrusively and seamlessly, integrate into the “normal life” of the target groups; we analyze the acquired data on an individual level in order to come to individualized support and we design systems that, using subtle and rich interaction, represent this information to these people themselves as well as to their coaches/caregivers in such a manner that it will, positively, influence the behavior of the people involved.
    • In this research we would like to focus on the developments in technology (sensors, reasoning, and data representation) that will enable the development of a new class of AI systems; systems that communicate “findings” instead of data in the physical and social surroundings of the individuals: localized AI, to answer research questions such as 1) In which ways data can be used to create, especially for a particular user group new concepts/propositions that make physical activities an attractive part of everyday life? 2) In which ways new concepts/propositions where localized AI creates added value for the people involved, in terms of (self) insight, motivation, and lifestyle?

Application Procedure

It is a two-step process:

  1. Applying with us. According to the quality of the application documents, you might be invited for an interview (video conferencing, if necessary). If the interview gives positive advice, you will be offered with an admission letter, with a tuition fee waiver.
  2. Applying at CSC. We will help you adjust, refine and improve your research proposal, and help you improve the quality of other application documents. We will assist and advise you throughout the CSC application process.

If you are interested in applying, please first address your interest to dr. Jun Hu: j.hu@tue.nl as early as possible for questions and guidance, and later prepare the following documents and submit them to j.hu@tue.nl , with "CSC PhD application 2022" in the subject:

  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. Research plan according to one of the aforementioned topics (no more than 4-pages of A4 in English, Including Background, Objectives and Research questions, Methodology, Planning, Expected results, Feasibility, Future Plan after your PhD, and References).
  3. Motivation letter (no more than 1-page A4).
  4. Copy of Master Degree (if available, or a letter from your university to prove that you are expected to graduate in due time).
  5. Letter of recommendation from your supervisor at the home university.
  6. Any indication of your English level (IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 95, or equivalent) according to the requirements from CSC (http://www.csc.edu.cn/) and TU/e.

  7. If you have a design or art background, portfolio of your design or artwork.

If these documents are too big to be attached to an email, you are advised to simply send in a link to a single online ZIP file that contains all the documents.

Deadlines

Please notice the deadlines: February 1, 2022 at TU/e; Please check the CSC website http://www.csc.edu.cn/ for the deadline applying at CSC. For better support for your application, we would encourage you to apply as early as possible.

For more information

For more information, please contact dr. Jun Hu: j.hu@tue.nl

More about research at ID, TU/e: https://www.tue.nl/en/our-university/departments/industrial-design/research/

More about the requirements in applying for the Scholarship from China Scholarship Council (CSC) for Chinese PhD candidates: http://www.csc.edu.cn

JunHu: CSC (last edited 2021-11-05 12:29:18 by JunHu)