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PhD (3-year position) Growing Roots: Connecting Elderly through Virtual Nature Spaces

Loneliness amongst elderly is a growing societal problem, which not only has its origins in a decrease of social contacts, but also in a sense of disconnectedness from the world at large. Research indicates that ...

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Drienerlolaan, Enschede, Overijssel
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur
€ 2222 - € 2840 per maand


Loneliness amongst elderly is a growing societal problem, which not only has its origins in a decrease of social contacts, but also in a sense of disconnectedness from the world at large. Research indicates that contact with nature can inspire feelings of connectedness. However, insights specifying which particular nature features are essential, and how nature can be made accessible to elderly via technology, are lacking.

In a collaboration between the University of Twente and Saxion University of Applied Sciences, you will be working on a project funded by ZonMW’s ‘Create Health’ program. Within this project, focus is on reduction of loneliness amongst frail elderly through nature-inspired technology (for example, VR or ambient technology). Specifically, you will co-develop (in collaboration with a creative industry partner) and test a natural environment which allows elderly to meet online and connect in real-life. The theoretical underpinnings of this project are formed by recent studies in psychology and nature experience, research on usability and acceptance of technology, and work in interaction design/ human-media interaction.


You have a master’s degree in human-media interaction, interaction design, or in the social sciences (or an equivalent degree). In addition, you:

  • have completed a research master;
  • have skills in programming and affinity with VR research;
  • have a creative and critical attitude, combined with perseverance and being flexible and stress-resistant;
  • have an interest in social aspects surrounding the use of technology;
  • are open-minded and have a willingness to learn new things;
  • are experienced in conducting research using various qualitative and quantitative methods, including literature research, questionnaires and performance tests;
  • research experience reflected in publications or a trajectory of potential publications on relevant topics;
  • have experience with multidisciplinary projects (desirable);
  • have good analytical skills;
  • have fluent English language skills, both in writing and speaking;
  • have fluent Dutch language skills;
  • have good social and communication skills in academic as well as non-academic contexts;
  • are able to work independently, but also motivated to collaborate with others, including project participants, care providers, and ICT developers.

Job application
Your application should include the following documents:

  • a cover letter which explains your interest in the position and your qualifications for it;
  • a curriculum vitae which includes the name and e-mail address/telephone number for (preferably) two or more references;
  • a copy of your master's thesis or, if it is not yet available, a summary and table of contents of the thesis.

Applications should be uploaded via https://www.utwente.nl/en/organization/careers/vacancy. Since only three documents can be uploaded per application, please combine documents if needed.

The application deadline is February 16, 2018. Interviews will be held in late February.

For additional information about this position you can contact dr. Thomas van Rompay (University of Twente; t.j.l.vanrompay@utwente.nl) or dr. Somaya Ben Allouch (Saxion; s.benallouch@saxion.nl).


We offer you a three-year full-time PhD position at the University of Twente. In accordance with the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement for Universities, the monthly salary starts at € 2.222 gross per month in the first year, leading up to € 2.840 gross per month in the last year. Employees are also entitled to a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus.

We offer excellent auxiliary terms of employment, such as professional and personal development programs; a secondary remuneration package; a dynamic environment with enthusiastic colleagues; an organization focusing on internationalization and a high degree of responsibility and independence.

The preferred starting date is 1th of April, 2018.


The University of Twente. We stand for life sciences and technology. High tech and human touch. Education and research that matter. New technology which leads change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university of the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programmes. We have a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out groundbreaking research.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status or disability status. Because of our diversity values we do particularly support women to apply.

Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social sciences
The Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social sciences (BMS) strives to play a pivotal role in understanding, co-engineering and evaluating innovation in society. Innovation is driven by advances in technology. Through 'social engineering' these technological advances are embedded in society befitting human needs and behaviour, within proper public and private management and business structures. For this the faculty of BMS upholds high quality disciplinary knowledge in psychology, business administration, public administration, communication science, philosophy, educational science and health sciences. All with a focus on the challenges in society. Research is strongly connected to our Institutes on Governance (IGS), ICT (CTIT), Health (MIRA) and Nanotechnology (MESA+).