PhD | Conversational Artificial Intelligence
for Improving Lifestyle | 1.0 fte


Chatbots for improving lifestyle decision-making

Job description

Recent work in Human-Centred Artificial Intelligence (AI) has shown that users often attribute human aspects to Conversational Agents (CAs aka. chatbots), such as personality traits. The human facet of CAs renders them particularly promising in supporting behavioural change in the long term, as opposed to traditional techniques that attenuate quickly (e.g., gamification). CAs avoid stigmatisation and are ideal for people who are reluctant to seek advice. In this project, we will investigate the potential and implications of CAs as lifestyle coaches for underprivileged families. Young families are innately curious and adept in using modern technologies, and potentially more receptive to interacting with CAs. We also expect that conversational agents will be more effective in increasing adherence to blended care interventions when compared to typical gamification techniques. In this line of research, we will seek to answer the following RQs:

  • How effective are conversational agents in instilling healthy-lifestyle habits to young families?
  • How do young families engage with conversational agents?
  • Which expectations young families have from a conversational agent that serves as a lifestyle coach?
  • Are conversational agents more effective than gamification for behavioural change?
  • Does an avatar change the perception of users for a conversational agent?
  • Do personality traits of the conversational agent influence how lifestyle advices are perceived by young families?

The successful candidate will design, develop, and evaluate Conversational AI prototypes that combine data streams (e.g., physiological, behavioural, contextual) from deployed probes (e.g., mobile apps, wearables, etc.), with knowledge elicited from the family communities, to inform dialectic interventions that improve lifestyle. Novel CA prototypes will be deployed in real family homes and will be evaluated in longitudinal studies in collaboration with project partners. The successful candidate will be based at TU Delft and work with academic project partners from Erasmus MC, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Leiden University as well as industrial project partners (e.g., Ortec B.V.).


Basic Requirements (must-have):

  • An MSc degree in a science field relevant to the PhD research described above (Conversational AI, HCI, AI/ML, Computer Science).
  • Demonstrated competencies in one or more of these domains: AI, HCI, Design, Computer/Data science, or another relevant field.
  • Excellent programming, scripting, and software prototyping skills (e.g., Java, Python, C++, PHP, MySQL, Neo4j) as well as interest in further developing your design, problem-solving, programming, and analytical skills.
  • Strong interest and experience in conducting empirical research (e.g., user studies), knowledge in inferential statistics and qualitative methods (e.g., content analysis) and understanding of user-centred design methods.
  • Ability to work in a team, elicit project requirements, take initiative, obtain results, be systematic and communicative.
  • Proficient in verbal and written English communication.

Additional Requirements (highly desirable)

  • Interest and experience in teaching and guiding students.
  • Dutch language proficiency is a very strong asset.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!