Within the faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and Computer Science (EEMCS), the department of Human Media Interaction (HMI) is looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate to work on Responsible Design for Wearable Soft Actuators.


  • HOURS40 hr.
  • SALARY INDICATION€ 2,541 – € 3,247
  • DEADLINE30 Sep 2022

The position is associated with the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Network SOFTWEAR (https://softwear-dn.eu). This is a highly interdisciplinary Doctoral Network in the emerging and rapidly growing field of wearables, with a unique focus on soft actuators for wearables and exoskeletons. The primary objective of SOFTWEAR is to train young researchers in the multidisciplinary science of soft actuators for integration in wearables and augmenting textiles. This will be achieved by merging design, human-technology interaction, ethics, chemistry, physics, mechanics, electronics, and textile technology, in a truly interdisciplinary manner, while teaching essential skills in ethics, product development, IPR and industrial realisation, thus providing a unique added value to the careers of the Researchers.

PhD project description
While soft actuators aim, in the first place, at empowerment of users, applications may also introduce new personal and societal vulnerabilities. For example, while soft exoskeletons may extend physical abilities, they may also reinforce ableist views that inclusion efforts are primarily the responsibility of the disabled or vulnerable person. Moreover, while the technologies are developed for societally beneficial purposes, they may also be used for harmful objectives (dual use risks). We offer a fully funded 4-year PhD position to address these challenges by developing a design framework that supports developers of applications of wearable soft actuators in analysing how human vulnerabilities are transformed through the envisaged applications. The research will identify key categories of applications of soft actuators, together with an envisioning tool for analysing how these give rise to different types of ethical and social issues. Design guidelines will be created that can be used for addressing these issues. This framework will be built on existing research on Value-Sensitive Design, Coactive Design, and ethics of technology such as guidance ethics, through a user-centred design process.

In the end, the researcher will have gained expertise in
i) existing design approaches for human-technology interaction from the areas of human-computer interaction, human-robot teamwork, and ethics of technology,
ii) performing inclusive user-centred design studies,
iii) social impact of wearable soft actuators, and
iv) development of design methods and tools for the novel type of technology of wearable soft actuators.
Key results will be an envisioning tool for identifying ethical and societal issues, and design guidelines for addressing them.

This ambitious aim will be accomplished by on-the-job training on innovative research projects developing beyond-the-state-of-the-art soft actuator technology and integrating this into active garments and soft exoskeletons. This will be carried out at leading academic groups and by immersion in applied projects at the industrial partners. SOFTWEAR will thus provide Europe with highly educated researchers in the emerging field of wearables, focused on integrating actuation. This will put Europe in a world-leading position in this field and will supply European companies with a highly skilled workforce in soft actuators and advanced smart textiles.

The prospective candidates are expected to perform and publish high quality and internationally visible research, and be involved in teaching and student supervision to a limited extent.


  • You hold or will soon hold a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in human-computer interaction, design, interaction technology, disability studies, philosophy, cognitive psychology, human-robot collaboration, or a related field;
  • You have excellent proficiency in English in speaking and writing (C1; above IELTS 7 or equivalent);
  • You have good communication skills, excellent conceptual and analytical skills, and you have an interest in working in a multidisciplinary environment;
  • You have interest and some experience in one or more of the following, or related topics: user-centred design, co-design, human performance modeling, or responsible research & innovation.


  • As a PhD student at UT, you will be appointed to a full-time position for four years, with a qualifier in the first year, within a very stimulating and exciting scientific environment;
  • The University offers a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues;
  • Your salary and associated conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO-NU);
  • You will receive a gross monthly salary ranging from € 2.541,- (first year) to € 3.247,- (fourth year);
  • There are excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, and a solid pension scheme;
  • A family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid);
  • You will have a training programme as part of the Twente Graduate School where you and your supervisors will determine a plan for a suitable education and supervision;
  • We encourage a high degree of responsibility and independence, while collaborating with close colleagues, researchers and other staff.
  • A friendly and welcoming research group, with attention to employee wellbeing.


Are you interested to be part of our team? Please submit your application September 30st 2022 at the latest via the ‘Apply now’ button below and include:

  • A letter of application in which you explain both your motivation and the relevance of your skills and experience for the research project. The motivational letter should be on-topic.
  • A full Curriculum Vitae including your publications (if any), awards, and working experience. Your CV should demonstrate the scope of your work and education and indicate a good fit with the stated requirements for the position.
  • An academic transcript of BSc and MSc education, including grades.
  • Your MSc thesis or the latest draft in English (or alternatively if your MSc thesis is not in English, a 5-page summary of your MSc thesis in English).
  • References (contact information) of two scientific staff members (one of whom should be the supervisor of your MSc thesis/final project) who are willing to be contacted by us.

The first interviews will be scheduled in October 2022. Please take these dates into account.

For further information about the position, please contact: Dr. Angelika Mader (a.h.mader@utwente.nl) and Dr. Birna van Riemsdijk (m.b.vanriemsdijk@utwente.nl).

Preferred starting date of the position: January 2023.


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