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Junior Researcher Virtual agents for supporting healthy nutrition in older people

Wageningen University, department of communication sciences, is looking for a motivated junior researcher who wants to work on a project that combines health communication with cutting-edge technology. The candidate is offered the opportunity to work ...

7 maanden geleden


Bornsesteeg, Wageningen, Gelderland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
36 - 36 uur


Wageningen University, department of communication sciences, is looking for a motivated junior researcher who wants to work on a project that combines health communication with cutting-edge technology. The candidate is offered the opportunity to work with specialists on health, communication science, and creative technology in a multidisciplinary setting and should aim to complete a PhD thesis on the topic of virtual agents for health communication.

The 3-year project entitled "How to design Persuasive E-health Agents for Coaching Older adults towards dietary behaviour change (PACO)?" must gain fundamental insights into the acceptance, working mechanisms and persuasiveness of virtual agents for eHealth. Such agents, which are computer-generated, animated conversation partners for technology users, allow for rich and persuasive automated communication. As compliance with health advice is important for positive health outcomes, successful design of persuasive virtual agents can have huge health benefits. Through a series of studies (co-design sessions with older adults, design experiments, and a real-life evaluation), we will identify the different factors that explain virtual agents' potential success for dietary change in older adults. The project is financially supported by a ZonMW grant and will be carried out by Wageningen University and Research, Roessingh Research and Development, WAAG society and the National Foundation for the Elderly.

The candidate will act as the main researcher in the project while being guided and supported by the different organizations. A high interest in the lives of older adults, health education and information, and technology design are a prerequisite.

Your tasks will consist of:

  • Contributing to design, execution and analyses of:
  1. Co-design panel discussions with older people;
  2. Experiments in which the use of different virtual agent characteristics (e.g., appearance, tone of voice) is explored;
  3. A real-life, longitudinal evaluation of the virtual agent's acceptability and effectiveness.
  • Informing the design team (including designers, programmers) on how to design a virtual agent for dietary guidance for older adults, based on your studies.
  • Writing scientific papers for peer-reviewed journals
  • Presenting at national and international scientific conferences
  • Participating in regular consortium meetings


  • A Completed master, preferably research master, in Communication Sciences, Psychology, Health Sciences, Human-Media/Human-Technology Interaction, or a related discipline;
  • Knowledge and experience in areas of quantitative, qualitative and/or design research methods (e.g., experimental research, field research, focus groups);
  • Proven affinity with scientific research in the domain of communication technology and behaviour change;
  • Interest in multidisciplinary research and ability to collaborate with people with different disciplinary backgrounds;
  • Affinity with the target population of elderly;
  • Fluent in the Dutch language;
  • Academic writing skills (in English);
  • Willingness to work at different locations (Wageningen and Enschede; division of work will be a shared decision with the candidate).
  • Expresses the desire to obtain a PhD


In principle this is a 36 month research position. We offer a 0.9 fte appointment (1.0 fte, 38 hours/week) initially for 12 months, which after a positive go/no go decision can be extended for another 24 months.

Salary ranges from € 2.465,- (gross) in the first year to € 2.709,- (gross) in the third year based on full-time employment and according to the CAO for Dutch Universities. In addition, we offer a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-the-year bonus of 8.3% of your annual salary and a good pension of the ABP Pension Fund.
Starting date: 1st April, 2018. Interviews rounds are planned for February 22 and 23.

Additional information

Additional information can be obtained from:
Prof. dr. Emely de Vet (tel.:+31(0)317486146): emely.devet@wur.nl
Dr. Lex van Velsen (Roessingh Research and Development): l.vanvelsen@rrd.nl

How to apply
You can apply till February 15, 2018. Please don't email directly to the persons mentioned above, but use the website to apply and upload a motivation letter, two names of references, your CV (including course grades), and your MSc thesis.


The Strategic Communication Group at Wageningen University has a strong 50-year tradition in researching and teaching critical, engaged, focused and reflexive scholarship. Within the life sciences theme of Wageningen University, the group's research focuses on communication in action related to issues of global importance, including public health, safe and healthy food, conservation of nature and sustainable agriculture. The Chair Group is embedded within the section Communication, Philosophy and Technology: Centre for Integrative Development in the Department of Social Sciences.
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Delivering a substantial contribution to the quality of life. That's our focus - each and every day. Within our domain, healthy food and living environment, we search for answers to issues affecting society - such as sustainable food production, climate change and alternative energy. Of course, we don't do this alone. Every day, 6,500 people work on 'the quality of life', turning ideas into reality, on a global scale.

Could you be one of these people? We give you the space you need.