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PhD Studentship in HCI at the UCL Interaction Centre: Designing the Teaching Experience for spreadsheets

UCL Interaction Centre (UCLIC)

, Dr Advait Sarkar , Monday, June 07, 2021 Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
London United Kingdom Artificial Intelligence Human Computer Interaction Computer Science Software Engineering

About the Project

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship in the UCL Interaction Centre (UCLIC), funded by an EPSRC/Microsoft iCASE studentship for up to 4 years from October 2021. Minimum enhanced stipend of £22,109 per annum plus fees.

Supervisors: Prof Duncan Brumby, Dr Advait Sarkar.

Spreadsheet applications, such as Excel, are deep and feature-rich software. We want users to learn and understand spreadsheet applications to take full advantage and be empowered by them. An important technique for doing so is ‘in-app teaching’, where we introduce new features and suggest tutorials through pop-up dialogs. However, we do not fully understand the optimal timing and level of information to provide in these dialogs, nor how these dialogs participate in the wider learning experience of the user, which may involve combining other learning approaches. If this is done right, we can create empowerment for the user, but if it is wrong, it can create a frustrating and irrelevant distraction.

This PhD would develop a theory of interruptability and spreadsheet mastery from observational studies and experimentally test one or more design interventions that improve the timing/design of in-app teaching dialogs. Beyond the immediate application of helping us better teach users our newest and best features in spreadsheet applications like Excel, the results may have profound implications for how we design trustworthy tutorials for all feature-rich software. See more information about the project.


Person Specification

Applicants should be interested in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and must possess a strong Bachelor’s (1st or 2:1) or Master's degree in a related discipline (eg., Computer Science, HCI, Psychology). They must have excellent communication and presentation skills and the ideal candidate for this project will be a deep analytical thinker with skills in quantitative or qualitative analysis. Good programming skills, experience of software development of interactive applications and/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 (for example, if a candidate has an outstanding track record of very relevant research, including e.g. publications in world leading venues). Please refer to the linked document for definitions of “home” and “international” student.

Application Procedure

Applicants should submit their applications via UCL Select by 5pm Monday 7 JuneNB: please notify with your application number when you apply. Applications must include:

1.     A personal statement (1 – 2 pages)

2.     A research proposal (1 – 4 pages) including a summary of some relevant literature and an outline of the type of research to be conducted (including ideas about which methods would be appropriate)

3.     Name and email contact details of 2 referees

4.     Academic transcripts

5.  A CV

Interviews will take place around 21 June 2021.

For an informal conversation about the project, please contact or Dr . For queries regarding the application process please contact .

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