PhD Projects

Below are some PhD projects that I am advertising. If you are an exceptional student with a strong honours or MSc degree, and you are interested in undertaking a PhD project with me, please email me at

Online Safety and Autism

Project title:
“Protecting the online safety, security, and privacy of young people with autism”)

Project description
The goal of this project is to design effective tools to protect the online safety, security, and privacy of young people with special needs. Current approaches rely on carers (e.g., parents, grandparents, siblings) to use a combination of ad hoc procedures and technologies to protect of their children, such as “home rules” (e.g., limiting computer access, turning off wireless hub), and monitoring technology (e.g., net nanny). Recent research of carers of children with autism (Just & Berg, 2017) has shown that carers struggle to effectively and consistently protect their children, highlighting their own technical inadequacy, the limitations of current technology, as well as the wider gap between them and their high performing children. It is expected that the project will contribute in two areas. Firstly, it will provide an understanding of the key digital challenges faced by carers and their children, and will make use of a variety of data gathering techniques for this purpose (e.g., focus groups, field studies) by working closely with carer groups and special needs schools across Scotland and the UK. Secondly, it will involve the design and testing of educational approaches for assisting carers and their children, which may involve, for example, tools for assisting childrens’ interactions online via advice and nudging, and tools for more effectively automating carers’ “home rules”.

Dr. Tessa Berg and Dr. Mike Just

Funding details
A 3-year funded studentship to cover fees and a stipend is available for this project. Students must either be UK resident, which generally includes UK citizens and other EU citizens who have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years.

Related references
Just, M., & Berg, T. (2017, September). Keeping Children Safe Online: Understanding the Concerns of Carers of Children with Autism. In IFIP Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 34-53). Springer.

Conversational authentication

Project title:
” ‘Hi Robot, it’s me’: Building an interactive system for human authentication”

Project description
Automated conversational agents and systems such as chatbots are becoming increasingly sophisticated and able to undertake complex tasks. More recently interactive conversational systems have been programmed to behave in a more human-like way and to engage in conversations with real people. Related to this, when checking your identity (for example when speaking with your bank), humans are often asked to answer a series of specific challenge questions, in order to prove that they are who they claim to be. Even if your answers to some of these questions are vague or incorrect, the dialogue usually continues until you either pass the test, or are thought to be lying. This research will involve the development of an automated conversational system that can interact with, and authenticate, a real person. Some of the main challenge areas will be how to automatically generate suitable questions from information held about a person, and how the system’s belief that the person is trustworthy changes during the conversation.

Dr. Mike Just and Prof. Oliver Lemon