Umeå University, Department of Cmputing Science

Umeå University is one of Sweden’s largest higher education institutions with over 37,000 students and about 4,700 employees. The University offers a diversity of high-quality education and world-leading research in several fields. Notably, the groundbreaking discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool, which was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was made here. At Umeå University, everything is close. Our cohesive campuses make it easy to meet, work together and exchange knowledge, which promotes a dynamic and open culture.

The ongoing societal transformation and large green investments in northern Sweden create enormous opportunities and complex challenges. For Umeå University, conducting research about – and in the middle of – a society in transition is key. We also take pride in delivering education to enable regions to expand quickly and sustainably. In fact, the future is made here.

Are you interested in learning more? Read about Umeå university as a workplace

Project: Digital Companions as Social Actors: Methods for Human-AI Collaboration

Umeå University, the Department of Computing Science, is seeking outstanding candidates for a PhD student position in Computer Science with focus on digital companions as social actors. Deadline for application is January 31.

The Department of Computing Science is a dynamic environment with around 120 employees representing more than 20 countries worldwide. The Interactive and Intelligent Systems group (led by prof. Helena Lindgren) conducts research on AI systems that need to manifest social intelligence and adaptive behaviour when collaborating with the human. For this purpose, the group investigates formal models of actors, activity and situations, reasoning and decision-making frameworks, and explores together with stakeholder groups behaviours of interactive AI systems for improving human capacity, autonomy and health, such as digital companions, dialogue systems, behaviour change systems and persuasive systems. The group collaborates interdisciplinary research with national and international research groups, and with public and private organisations. For more information see .

This PhD position is part of the Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program on Humanities and Society (WASP-HS). WASP-HS aims to realize excellent research and develop competence on the consequences and challenges of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems for the individual person and society. This 10-year program is initiated and generously funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation (MMW) with 660 million SEK. In addition to this, the program receives support from collaborating industry and from participating universities.

WASP-HS includes an extensive national graduate school with up to 70 doctoral students, the creation of least ten new research groups across Sweden, support for twelve visiting professors to strengthen Swedish research and networking activities, and a number of research projects. For more information about the research and other activities conducted within WASP-HS, please visit

The WASP-HS graduate school provides foundations, perspectives, and state-of-the-art knowledge in the different disciplines taught by leading researchers in the field. Through an ambitious program with research visits, partner universities, and visiting lecturers, the graduate school actively supports forming a strong multi-disciplinary and international professional network between PhD students, researchers and practitioners in the field. It thus provides added value on top of the existing PhD programs at the partner universities, providing unique opportunities for students who are dedicated to achieving international research excellence with societal relevance.

Research project
This PhD student project focuses on how relationships between human and digital companion can be defined, formalised and developed, and will be aligned with the interdisciplinary research project “Digital Companions as Social Actors: Employing Socially Intelligent Systems for Managing Stress and Improving Emotional Wellbeing” funded by Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation. Research will be conducted in collaboration with researchers in cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction. The aim of the project is to investigate the impact of semi-autonomous intelligent systems as digital companions and social actors on human activity. We will in particular investigate the impact from the perspectives of purposeful activity, social order and roles, motivation, empowerment, emotional wellbeing and sustainable behaviour change for improving health in daily life. One of the problems to be addressed is what do collaboration and cooperation with the digital companion mean to the individual and how to balance initiative, autonomy, responsibility and conflicting goals. Since the digital companion is expected to be embedded in daily activities, it is interesting to explore methods for how the individual actively can co-design and continue having influence over the appearance and behaviour of the digital learning companion in daily use.

About the position
The successful applicant will receive a competitive salary for a period of four years of full time PhD studies. PhD students are typically offered the opportunity to gain teaching experience on suitable undergraduate courses. If so, the employment period is extended to cover the time spent on teaching (at most 20 %). Expected starting date is May 1, 2020 or as otherwise agreed.

Admission requirements
The applicant is required to have completed a second- cycle level degree, or completed course requirements of at least 240 ECTS credits, of which at least 60 ECTS credits are at second-cycle level, or have an equivalent education from abroad, or equivalent qualifications. To fulfil the specific entry requirements for doctoral studies in computing science, the applicant is required to have completed courses at second-cycle level degree equivalent to 60 ECTS credits in computing science, or in a subject considered to be directly relevant for the specialisation in question.

Candidates are expected to have very good knowledge of AI techniques and human-AI interaction. Demonstrable knowledge of modelling and implementing dialogue systems, intelligent virtual agents and other interaction technologies is a merit. Knowledge of human cognition and activity obtained in studies in e.g., psychology or cognitive science, medical and health-related knowledge and experiences from interdisciplinary projects are also merits.

Since research is conducted in an international and interdisciplinary research environment, the ability to collaborate and contribute to teamwork, and a very good command of the English language, both written and spoken, are key requirements.

A complete application should contain the following documents:

  • A cover letter including a description of your research interests, your reasons to apply for the position, and your contact information
  • A curriculum vitae
  • If applicable, copy of completed BSc and/or MSc thesis and other original research publications
  • Copies of degree certificates, including documentation of completed academic courses and obtained grades
  • Contact information for two persons willing to act as references

Documents must be in Word or pdf format. Applications must be submitted electronically using the e-recruitment system of Umeå University, and be received no later than January 31, 2020. Reference number: AN 2.2.1-1885-19.

The procedure for recruitment for the position is in accordance with the Higher Education Ordinance (chapter 12, 2§) and the decision regarding the position cannot be appealed.

The recruitment aims at a balanced gender distribution, and in particular women are encouraged to apply.

For additional information, please contact professor Helena Lindgren,

We look forward to receiving your application!

Type of employment Temporary position
Contract type Full time
First day of employment May 1, 2020 or as otherwise agreed
Salary Monthly salary
Number of positions 1
Full-time equivalent 100%
City Umeå
County Västerbottens län
Country Sweden
Reference number AN 2.2.1-1885-19
  • Helena Lindgren, professor,
Union representative
  • SACO, 090-786 53 65
  • SEKO, 090-786 52 96
  • ST, 090-786 54 31
Published 04.Dec.2019
Last application date 31.Jan.2020 11:59 PM CET

Return to job vacancies