PhD student in Intelligent virtual agent for health coaching

This position is part of the project "Perfect Fit: Targeting key risk factors for cardiovascular disease in at-risk individuals using a personalised and adaptive approach", which is funded by Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), ZonMw, Topsector LSH, Hartstichting, VWS, eScience center. The project combines big-data science, sensor technology, and personalised realtime feedback for individuals to achieve and maintain abstinence from smoking and sufficient physical activity, prevent cardiovascular disease, facilitate wellbeing and reduce healthcare costs.

In this project, this position centres on establishing a virtual coach whereby the work focusses on communicating the system generated data-driven personalised health advice to the user. For individual empowerment and compliance with this advice, people should understand and be motivated to follow up the advice. The virtual coach will establish a persuasive profile for each individual by learning what argument and interaction type they responded favourably to before. For this, it will combine goal-driven (symbolic) reasoning with data-driven (sub-symbolic) machine learning. Depending on platform constraints, the virtual coach will either appear as embodied conversation agents or as a text-based conversational agent.

As a PhD student your task concern the following activities:

conducting participatory design workshops, wizard of Oz testing and focus groups
designing and writing software for the virtual coach, and empirically evaluate user communication with the virtual coach
present results on scientific conferences
publish in renowned scientific journals
participate in the activities of the project team involving PhD students, PostDocs, developers, researchers, health care providers of the participating organisations.
We are looking for candidates who meet the following requirements:

a master degree in the area of computer science, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, or related area.
your performance in the master degree can be classified as excellent.
experience with quantitative and qualitative research, statistical analysis is an added value
comfortable with programming and developing end-user software applications
excellent communication skills both spoken and written English and Dutch
comfortable and social in interacting with end-users in Dutch
a creative mind, like to work with others, and have stamina
Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount for health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. An International Children’s Centre offers childcare and an international primary school. Dual Career Services offers support to accompanying partners. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.

As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment; an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor; and a Doctoral Education Programme aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills. Please visit for more information.   

Technische Universiteit Delft
Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) is a multifaceted institution offering education and carrying out research in the technical sciences at an internationally recognised level. Education, research and design are strongly oriented towards applicability. TU Delft develops technologies for future generations, focusing on sustainability, safety and economic vitality. At TU Delft you will work in an environment where technical sciences and society converge. TU Delft comprises eight faculties, unique laboratories, research institutes and schools.

Faculty Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science
The department of Intelligent Systems (INSY) conceptualizes computer science methodologies to sense, abstract, learn, reason, elicitate and adapt data and their meaning in ways that respect human values in order to increase human effectiveness in well-being and social innovation. At the heart of the department is therefore the research and teaching in computer science theory, algorithms and solutions for information processing systems that support humans (e.g. robotics), new products (e.g. internet services), and science (e.g. biology)

The Interactive Intelligence group focuses on interaction of users with intelligent systems. In particular we have a strong track record on the development of smart interactive agents. Such agents possess capabilities including learning, reasoning, social skills, emotions, and norms and can interact with humans. These agents typically function as coach, artificial actor, or companion, and are used in a wide variety of applications including therapy, health and entertainment.

For information about this vacancy, you can contact Willem-Paul Brinkman,associate professor, email:

For information about the selection procedure, please contact Karin Reijenga, HR, email:


TU Delft


Deadline for application


Apply for this job

Send me the advert by email