PhD Studentship A System for Virtual Experiments Through Touch Screen Technology and Haptic Feedback – Education Through Gaming

Faculty of Engineering

The University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering is one of the premier engineering faculties in the UK. It has an international reputation for research, and was ranked joint 4th in Unit 28 in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). Mechanical Engineering at Nottingham was rated 6th in the Guardian and 11th in The Times in recent university league tables. 

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD studentship (3 years) to work on a project which combines elements from multiple disciplines to achieve a new kind of human interface device for education. Touch and stylus display interfaces are an established technology that offers easy and intuitive interaction with computers. This has led to an explosion in the market for interactive games and educational applications. Most commonly these educational applications are developed for young children, allowing them to explore simple ideas in an unconstrained way, i.e. to experiment. To date there have been very few applications that offer the sophistication required to engage adult learners in subjects such as engineering, physics and biology. A primary reason for this is the challenge of maintaining engagement with complex and often ‘dry’ material.

There exists here an avenue through which to engage young people in scientific education as well as provide a high quality learning experience for those already in scientific education. Attracting and retaining people to the sciences is going to be a critical factor for the economic prosperity of the UK.

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This project is part of a programme that looks to revolutionise engagement with simulations of physical experiments with the development of a novel interface device with haptic feedback for allowing users to perceive virtual objects through co-located sight and touch. A user might perceive an objects weight and inertia, presence of magnetic and electrostatic fields, spring forces, vibrations, and flow dynamics. Numerous technologies, that are making their way into the consumer market, are changing the way we interact with computers. This project looks to leverage those cutting edge technologies to improve computer aided learning in the sciences.

A candidate for this studentship should have competency and enthusiasm in at least two of the following fields; mechanical engineering design, electronics, computer programming, educational theory, game design.

If you think that you have the skills and the enthusiasm to contribute to improved science education in the UK and abroad, please get in touch.

The studentship will cover PhD tuition fees and a tax free stipend for three years (£13,726 for the 2013-14 academic year), due to funding restrictions this studentship is only available to UK/EU students. An additional £2,000 a year may be awarded for students with a 1st class degree/MSc Distinction from a UK Russell Group University or equivalent. The studentship is expected to start in October 2013.

If you are interested in making an application, please contact Dr Simon Lawes (, via the ‘Apply’ button below, directly with a covering letter stating clearly how you fulfil the requirements of the studentship, and include a CV and the names and addresses of two academic referees. Interviews will take place at the University of Nottingham. Please quote ref. ENG/724.

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This studentship will remain open until filled.

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