Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology

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. And 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 what it is all about. But also about delivering education to enable regions to expand quickly and sustainably. This is simply where the future is built.

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

Umeå Institute of Design (UID) as a workplace is characterised by inclusion, curiosity, creativity and collaboration. A flow of international students and staff creates a unique atmosphere defined by togetherness and a common purpose. The organisation of UID is characterised by democratic processes and transparent leadership. Here students and staff are encouraged to challenge the boundaries of issues of sustainability and diversity. At UID, design is not only about solving problems, it is also about challenging the status quo and opening up new perspectives. Together we want to be involved in creating a better tomorrow. 
We are now looking for a PhD student in industrial design, with a focus on sustainability and grassroots communities, to join us for a time-limited position of 4 years full time dedicated to research education. The position may include education or other departmental work up to 20% which then can extend the employment to a maximum of 5 years. 
About the position 
Under the focus area of “sustainability and grassroots communities”, there are a number of emerging concerns for industrial design. In a digitalising society, networked and computational technologies are altering the ways things are made and shared, even becoming new infrastructures for design. Changes in patterns of production and consumption indicate new ways people are engaging in design and technology development, from distributed manufacturing to peer-to-peer production, extending also to platform co-ops and experiments in postcapitalist organising. In such industrial transitions, there is potential for exploring what inclusive, “just” and environmentally sustainable practices and lifeways can look like, practices that acknowledge human embeddedness in webs of life. This presents opportunities to engage in research working with practices of making and design experimentation oriented toward sustainability transformation and imaginative, hopeful diverse design futures.  
The position is supervised by Professor Cindy Kohtala and will be co-supervised by a secondary supervisor to be appointed later.  
The PhD student will join a vibrant educational environment, characterised by combinations of collaborative and individual research and a supervisory team supporting them throughout the PhD education. 
Potential research areas for this focus include (but are not necessarily limited to) observing, exploring and experimenting with:  

  • 'Critical making' devices and/or co-design processes that explore various dimensions of sustainability, ethics, values, technology, politics, power and participation.
  • Open design in fab lab and maker culture contexts oriented toward sustainability, experimentation in shared technology workshops (fab labs, makerspaces, etc.), including digital platforms, dweb (distributed web) and community tool development 
  • Citizen participation in local sustainability issues, in stakeholder collaboration involving public and private actors and/or at the grassroots in peer-to-peer, self-organised ways 
  • Localising of design and production in distributed manufacturing, batch production and circular material flows  
  • Explorations around the histories of design and making, participation, local production. 

With this position, we also want to strengthen the critical dimension of teaching in the bachelor's and master's programmes, and thus part of this employment may include participation in teaching on our programmes and courses at Umeå Institute of Design. We believe that critical and inclusive perspectives are necessary components in the development of the conceptual foundations and future practices of industrial design.  
To be admitted for studies at third cycle level the applicant is required to have completed a second cycle level degree or completed course requirements of at least 240 higher education credits, of which at least 60 credits are at second cycle level or have an equivalent education from abroad or equivalent qualifications.  
To be admitted for studies at third cycle level in industrial design, the applicant is required to have completed at least 90 higher education credits within the field of design, of which at least 30 credits have been acquired at second cycle level. Applicants who in some other system within Sweden or abroad have acquired largely equivalent skills are also eligible. 
We are looking for someone who believes that they need to be in dialogue with the world around them to make a difference that matters, who has the ability to interact with society in order to increase visibility and understanding of research in industrial design and who is very good in expressing themself in both spoken and written English. 
The PhD student we seek is a keen observer of emerging design issues and practices and a creative thinker to imagine and materialise, with critical thinking and often in collaboration with others, what could be. Documented experience with sustainability topics relevant for design and excellent communication skills is a requirement.  
Employment conditions 
The position as a PhD student is a four-year full-time employment. The position may include teaching or other departmental work up to 20%, which will lengthen the overall duration of the employment to a maximum of five years. The employment period can be extended if there are special reasons, such as parental leave or sick leave. In a first stage, the employment has a one-year duration, after which it is renewed for a maximum of two years at a time, provided that the PhD student follows their individual study plan. 
Salary level and incremental increases in salary will occur according to a stipulated scale for PhD students at Umeå University. The PhD student will be enrolled in the PhD programme and employed at Umeå Institute of Design. 
The doctoral programme is an on-site programme, which requires that the PhD student is based in Umeå. The PhD student is expected to participate and contribute actively to the research environment at Umeå Institute of Design.  
Expected start date is in the autumn term 2023. 
Other Information  
For further information about the content and direction of the position, contact professor Cindy Kohtala +46 90 786 75 71,

For further information about PhD studies at Umeå Institute of Design contact Director of PhD Studies, Maria Göransdotter, +46 90 786 70 36,  

For further information about terms of employment contact Head of Department, Demian Horst, +46 90 786 97 82, 
Your application must include the following documents:  

  • A cover letter describing the reasons to apply for the position and outlining your experience with, competence in, and approach to sustainability (you can refer to information in the other application materials).  
  • A curriculum vitae. 
  • A research statement outlining what questions you would be interested in pursuing within the scope of the PhD, and how you would go about addressing those questions (3 to 5 pages). 
  • Certified diploma and transcripts of records documenting previous education.  
  • A portfolio.
  • Names and contact details (telephone and email) of 2 professionally qualified persons willing to act as referee on your behalf. 
  • A sample of writing, e.g., master thesis, academic publications, professional or popular science writing. 
  • Other information for consideration, e.g. artworks, patents, professional media content (if any). 

Please observe that incomplete applications will not be processed and according to the Swedish Higher Education Ordinance (Chapter 12, Section 2), the decision on employment as a doctoral student cannot be appealed. 
Welcome with your application, which you submit electronically using the e-recruitment system of Umeå University. Last day to apply is April 15.  

Type of employment Temporary position
Contract type Full time
First day of employment Enligt överenskommelse
Salary Månadslön
Number of positions 1
Full-time equivalent 100%
City Umeå
County Västerbottens län
Country Sweden
Reference number AN 2.2.1-330-23
  • Demian Horst, 090-7869782
  • Maria Göransdotter, 090-7867036
  • Cindy Kohtala, 090-7867571
Union representative
  • SACO, 090-7865365
  • SEKO, 090-7865296
  • ST, 090-7865431
Published 21.Feb.2023
Last application date 15.Apr.2023 11:59 PM CEST

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