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PHD vacancy Everyday Sounds of Dementia

The department of Industrial Design of the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e), founded in 2001, is a rapidly growing department with over 550 students, both Bachelor and Master, and around 200 staff members. With a ...

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de Rondom, Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 uur


The department of Industrial Design of the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e), founded in 2001, is a rapidly growing department with over 550 students, both Bachelor and Master, and around 200 staff members. With a strong emphasis on research the ID department focuses on the design of intelligent products, systems, and related services. The TU/e ID engineer is capable of integrating technology, user aspects, design and business/marketing insights. This MSc programme is practice-oriented, capable of dealing with, and aware of, relevant issues as formulated by industry and society at large. Ambient Intelligence and Ambient (health) Care draw special attention within the TU/e and ID particular, and is an important research and application field.

The department of Industrial Design is one of the nine departments of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). Research at the department is focused on two areas or thematic clusters: Future Everyday and Systemic Change.

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.

The Systemic Change cluster focuses on designing innovations that have impact on systemic structures and networks of people, ultimately aiming to address societal issues such as urban health, future mobility, sustainability and in this specific case design for people with dementia. Field data and organisational structures are used in novel iterative and circular research-through-design processes involving strategic alliances of stakeholders.

Research and education at the department are highly interconnected. In particular, Bachelor, Master and PhD students intensively collaborate with research staff in so-called 'squads' dedicated to specific research topics.

Tilburg University Tranzo
The position is in partnership with the Knowledge Network 'Innovating Health Services' of Tranzo. Tranzo is the scientific research center for care and welfare of the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences of Tilburg University (TiU). The mission of Tranzo is to build a bridge between science and practice in the area of care and welfare. The objective is to promote an evidence-based approach by working in co-creation with practitioners to develop and exchange knowledge. Within Tranzo, the Knowledge Network 'Innovating Health Services' focusses on the combination and integration of social and technological innovation. Possibilities, drivers, constraints and prerequisites of sustainable innovation in daily practice are key. Attention is paid to the perspectives, goals and interests of different stakeholders in the innovation process (patients, (in-)formal caregivers, health care organisations, financiers, politicians etc.).

The project background
The PhD research will be carried out as part of a national design research project called 'Everyday Sounds of Dementia' as to be funded by create Health ZonMw.

The project 'Everyday Sounds of Dementia' aims to research the potential of sound and soundscapes in design of technology and services for people living with dementia. In this process, new knowledge will be generated concerning: How to involve people living with dementia and their carers in design research, suitable design propositions for people with dementia and the potential impact of the design results in the care context considering the different stakeholders, and how ambient sound can contribute to the wellbeing of people living with dementia.

In general, the project envisions three main goals:

  1. Build a knowledge framework about how sound can contribute to the quality of life of people living with dementia and their carers by using co-design and participatory approaches (see 3.) to identify, collect, and classify sound in relation to emotional and cognitive responses at various stages of dementia.
  2. Identify how design-research can contribute to knowledge in relation to sound and dementia, and explore appropriate technologies for the creation of sound interventions that can contribute to the everyday caring of people living with dementia. This will be evaluated and analyzed in close collaboration with the target group, and based on the knowledge framework developed in objective 1.
  3. Develop a set of guidelines for co-design and participatory approaches for people living with dementia to engage with designers and technologists in the development of personalized sound interventions.
In this project, different partners will collaborate to achieve these objectives. Next to TU/e Industrial Design and Tranzo (Tilburg University), the zorggroep Archipel (care institute Archipel) and network organization cooperation Slimmer Leven 2020 will be involved.

Archipel will operate as contact point with the care context of people with dementia, their family members and formal caregivers. They will facilitate user contact throughout the PhD and allow in context testing to take place continuously. Slimmer Leven 2020 will be involved as industry partner to link the results of the design research findings to their stakeholder network, containing industry, hospitals, care institutes, knowledge partners, educational institutes and more.

The PhD candidate will be situated within the Systemic Change research group at TU/e Industrial Design (80%) and Knowledge Network 'Innovating Health Services' (20%).

The PhD track
This PhD track will be carried out via multi-stakeholder collaboration to address the societal challenge of the increasing number of people living with dementia. It aims at the finding of opportunities for, design and evaluation of emerging technologies in close contact with the context of people living with dementia.

The role of music in promoting wellbeing in relation to people with dementia has been the subject of ongoing research. However, the importance of high quality ambient sound and soundscapes is under researched. This project explores the hypothesis that listening to curated sets of sounds can reduce stress, soothe or excite; relieve boredom; and support the wellbeing of people living with dementia. Familiar sounds may support reminiscence, while unfamiliar sounds might trigger emotional or cognitive responses, potentially leading to new experiences. It will investigate how sound can be used to create experiences and add to quality of life of those living with dementia. Sound empowers human beings, it supports us in our everyday lives through signaling, communication, and by providing pleasure. Sound is omni-directional and can provide information about our environment (Bakker, et al. 2012), or inspire imagination. Sound communicates, not only as language, but also by providing contextual information about the environment, think for example about an empty room, a railway station, or a lively forest. Sound can provide detailed information about the context, build expectations and cue behaviours (Eggen, et al. 2008).

In addition, the project will use co-design and participatory design approaches with people living with dementia (Kenning 2017) that provides social engagement and meaningful activity during the design process of identifying affective everyday sounds, establishing a categorized collection, and exploring easy to use technologies and interfaces to access them. It will develop research artifacts: design proposals in the form of interactive digital or physical objects used in the research-through-design-process to investigate how sound and sound interventions can have a sustainable role in a real-life context of dementia care and wellbeing.

Dementia impacts cognitive and physical functioning such that each person's experience of dementia is different. People live in different physical and social environments and have different support mechanisms and social network structures in place. Therefore, for interventions to be successful the design approach needs to take into account individual wants, needs, likes and dislikes, circumstances, personal context and environment, and existing relationships with family members and caregivers (Brankaert, 2016).

The PhD candidate will be expected contribute towards:

- Understanding the needs of people living with dementia and their caregivers in different contexts

- Develop design propositions for and in the context of dementia involving the various stakeholders

- Evaluation, synthesis and analysis of impact of (sound) design solutions in a real-life context

- Theoretical contribution to design and innovation research

The PhD candidate will work in collaboration with a team of academic staff and under the supervision of prof. Berry Eggen (TU/e), prof. Inge Bongers (TiU), dr. Saskia Bakker (TU/e), and dr. Rens Brankaert (TU/e).

About the University
TU/e is one of Europe's leading research universities. The Eindhoven area, in the southern part of the Netherlands, is one of Europe's top 'innovation ecosystems', with many high-tech companies and institutes, such as Philips, ASML, NXP, DAF, OCE, and TNO. TU/e is closely intertwined with many of these companies and institutes, and research at TU/e is characterized by a combination of academic excellence and industrial relevance. Culturally, the Netherlands is a very interesting part of Europe. Historic cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague, Maastricht, Brussels, and Antwerp are all within easy reach from Eindhoven. PhD students at TU/e are appointed as temporary staff members.


Candidates for this position should have a Masters in an area related to the field of Human Computer Interaction, Industrial Design or Social and Behavioral sciences preferably with skills and experience in design or innovation projects and an affinity with sound design. Furthermore, an interest and prior experience in the specific areas of designing for older adults, people living with dementia, or working with vulnerable user groups, developing innovation propositions, design research approaches, and in context research, are very much valued. Candidates should have the interest and motivation to conduct user research and empirical evaluations of created solutions. We seek candidates with academic writing skills, the ability to work in multi-disciplinary teams but also individually, and with a sincere scientific curiosity for studying the impact and evaluation of design solutions for this context.


The appointment is for 4 years, starting before March 1, 2018 (starting date is negotiable). The research in this project must be concluded with writing a PhD thesis. TU/e offers excellent employment conditions including excellent sport facilities and child care. At a full time position a salary is offered starting at €2.222 per month (gross) in the first year and increasing up to €2.840 per month (gross) in the last (4th) year. Moreover 8% bonus share (holiday supplement) and 8.3% bonus share (end-of-the-year allowance) are provided annually. Assistance for finding accommodation can be provided.

Additionele informatie

  • Further information about the project, including a full project description, can be obtained from Dr. Rens Brankaert, Dept of Industrial Design, r.g.a.brankaert@tue.nl.
  • General information about the organization and the hiring process can be requested from HR Services Industrial Design, +31(0)40 2475336, e-mail: HR-IndustrialDesign@tue.nl.

  • Your application must contain the following documents (all in English):
  • A letter explaining your specific interest in this project
  • An extensive curriculum vitae.

  • Please note that a maximum of 5 documents of 2 MB each can be uploaded. If you have more than 5 documents you will have to combine them.

    Applications per email are not accepted.

    If you are interested, we invite you to apply before 15 January 2018. You can send us the application through the online job portal of the TU/e: jobs.tue.nl/en/vacancies.html and use the apply now button or click here.


    Bakker, S., Hoven, E. van den, and Eggen, B. (2012). Knowing by ear: leveraging human attention abilities in interaction design. Journal on Multimodal User Interfaces, 5(3), pp. 197-209.

    Brankaert, Rens. 2016. "Design for Dementia: A design-driven living lab approach to involve people with dementia and their context." PhD, Eindhoven University of Technology.

    Eggen B, Mensvoort, van K, Menting D., Vegt E., W. Widdershoven and R. Zimmermann, Soundscapes at Workspace Zero - Design Explorations into the Use of Sound in a Shared Environment. In Proc. Sixth Int. Conf. on Pervasive Computing, Sydney, Australia, May 2008.

    Kenning, G. 2017. Making It Together: Reciprocal Design to Promote Positive Wellbeing for People Living with Dementia. University of Technology Sydney