PhD Studentship Opportunity: Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD), University of Dundee

Co-creating augmentative communication futures

About the Project

The Wellcome Trust are funding a PhD at the University of Dundee as part of an interdisciplinary Collaborative Award in Medical Humanities and Social Science: ‘Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures’ research project (itDf).

itDf is a 5-year interdisciplinary research project involving scholars from literary studies, cultural studies, design, disability studies, engineering, robotics and philosophy. It spans the Universities of Leeds, Exeter, Dundee and Sheffield. itDf explores how we imagine future encounters between disability and technology, and the shapes these technologies might take. The main aims of the project are to investigate the ideas of body and personhood that arise through contemporary developments in literature and film, philosophy, assistive technology and robotics; for example, the imagining and making of, prosthetic limbs, augmentative communication and care and telepresence robots.

The Dundee-led workstream, ‘prototyping everyday communication futures’ will focus on people with complex communication needs and their – and their conversational partners’ – shared use of augmentative and alternative communication (or AAC).

Our opening stance is that we wish to challenge futures that imagine a disabled body being ‘fixed’. We will instead start from a perspective of AAC being about designing interactions between people and supporting their co-created conversations. In this, we are as much if not more interested in everyday improvisations as we are in the dominant predictions of seamless brain-to-speech interfaces, for example. We will try to prototype something of the experience of these alternative futures, even if it is unlikely that we will build fully-working systems. And we will be led by the experiences of disabled people and their stances towards their own disability – particularly those who are interested in joining us in imagining alternative futures.

Within DJCAD, the project will be situated within Studio Ordinary: an interdisciplinary research centre co-founded by Professor Graham Pullin as Chair in Design and Disability and Professor Fiona Kumari Campbell as Chair in Disability and Ableism Studies. Our manifesto is ‘Super normal design for extra ordinary bodies’. Our previous projects include Hands of X in the field of prosthetics and Six Speaking Chairs in the area of AAC.

The successful applicant will be a part of a cohort of researchers due to join the project team in Spring 2021 and will be based in Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) at the University of Dundee. The anticipated start date for the research is between 1 April and 1 June 2021. 

First Supervisor – Graham Pullin, Professor of Design and Disability

Second Supervisor – Fiona Kumari Campbell, Professor of Disability and Ableism Studies

Framing your PhD

Our workstream has at its heart a meeting of:

disability studies;

augmentative and alternative communication;

designing interactions.

Other researchers on our workstream (a Co-Investigator, Post Doctoral Research Assistant and Research Assistants) are providing expertise in participatory research; speculative/design fiction; speech and non-speech technologies. Any applicant should be interested or intrigued about the other aspects too; because itDf is an interdisciplinary project that incorporates philosophy, design, engineering, robotics and literary studies, the successful applicant will demonstrate commitment to and enthusiasm for interdisciplinary collaboration.

We would particularly welcome applicants with a lived and/or professional experience or involvement in AAC, or other assistive technology, or specific aspects of interpersonal communication.

We are particularly interested in applicants identifying as disabled, but welcome applications from non-disabled as well (Studio Ordinary includes disabled and non-disabled researchers and mentors).

We would invite you to draft an outline proposal, your own perspective on this interdisciplinary and participatory endeavour. Again, we wouldn’t expect any PhD to give equal weight to all those aspects. It would be illuminating to hear which you might focus on and what you think the relationship might be between them. Which will also require you to suggest a research methodology and methods that might connect them.

We would expect to work with you in framing this were your application to progress, so this is to hear what strikes you as initially interesting; what your own instinct is as to what would be most rewarding to explore for three years, in connection with our project.

Funding Notes

The Wellcome Studentship funding covers:
• course fees for UK/non-UK EU nationals for three years (£4,600 for 2020/21),
• a studentship stipend (Year 1: £19,919, Year 2: £21,542, Year 3: £23,298),
• plus travel and subsistence for research meetings and conferences connected to the itDf project.
If you’re a national of a high-income country outside the EU/EEA, please be aware that the funding will not extend to cover international fees and you would be required to cover the additional cost of an international fee yourself. For more information on postgraduate fees please visit: View Website


You should submit your application to the University Postgraduate Research Operations using the online portal, clearly indicating that you are applying for this specific project. More information on how to apply, including a link to the online admissions portal can be found at:
Entry requirements:
• bachelor degree with a First Class or 2:1 (hons) or equivalent
• and an appropriate taught or research Masters degree.
• Equivalent professional and/or lived experience will be considered.
We require the following documentation, which can be attached to your online application:
• A research proposal
• A sample of your own recently written work on a relevant topic (around 2,000 to 4,000 words, such as an essay or dissertation excerpt from your most recent
• Copies of academic qualifications and undergraduate and MA transcripts.
• Two academic references (these can be posted directly via email to: and labelled in the subject line as ‘itDF Applicant References’

• For applicants whose first language is not English, IELTS or TOEFL scores must be provided, showing a minimum attainment of 6.5 or its equivalent
• You should also include a supporting statement of up to 1,000 words. The statement should indicate (1) how your skills and experience have prepared you for undertaking this specific project and (2) how you feel that your planned research will fit into the itDf project as a whole.
Informal enquiries may be made to Professor Graham Pullin (
The closing date for receipt of applications for the studentship is 28 February 2021. The award is conditional on successful application for admission to study for a PhD at DJCAD, University of Dundee. Interviews for the position will take place in February or March 2021. A successful applicant is expected to start between 1 April and 1 June 2021

The position can be found on