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PhD in “Experiencing space: environmental psychology with a dash of big data”

PhD in “Experiencing space: environmental psychology with a dash of big data”

Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences
Instituten en overigen
EAISI - Eindhoven Artificial Intelligence Systems Institute


The Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences of Eindhoven University of Technology has a PhD training position in the Human Technology Interaction (HTI) group, to work in the multidisciplinary project “AIDE: an Affective Image Dataset of Environments for AI research”, funded by the Eindhoven Artificial Intelligence Systems Institute (EAISI).

The understanding and prediction of people’s experience of their environments —for example, what makes a space pleasant, or relaxing?—  is a topic that has long been of interest for the fields of building science, architecture, and environmental psychology. Existing research studies have mainly focused on relating the occupant’s experience with the physical characteristics of the scene, such as architectural design features, natural elements, or lighting conditions. However, attributes that relate to the meaning of the scene, such as the roles and activities of occupants, or the social dimensions of a scene, are rarely taken into account. In order to create built environments that are not only comfortable and energy efficient, but that also positively contribute to the satisfaction and wellbeing of their occupants, it is essential to identify the drivers of the occupants’ experience, and in particular to examine the role of both physical and meaning-based characteristics of spaces.

This project aims to address a fundamental question in the field of architecture and environmental psychology: is our emotional experience of indoor environments driven by the physical characteristics of the space or by the meaning we attribute to them? Our goal is to describe the impact of both physical features (for example, the presence of a window, scene brightness, symmetry) and meaning-related dimensions (for example, the possible activities that one could do in an environment, familiarity/novelty, whether one would be there alone or in the company of loved ones or strangers) on human emotional responses to indoor spaces. Imagine, for example, a living room and a hospital waiting room with similar furniture: would the presence of a window have the same effect on an occupants’ experience of each environment?

PhD position “Experiencing space: environmental psychology with a dash of big data”

To examine this question, the PhD candidate will dive into environmental psychology theories on how we perceive environments, develop a large image dataset of indoor environments, and make use of AI techniques as well as mathematical models that reflect environmental psychology theories to examine the drivers of emotional responses to these images. The outcomes of this project aim to broaden our understanding of how objective physical attributes and subjective meaning contribute to our experience of space, to improve theoretical frameworks, and to facilitate the production of AI-generated scenes that can induce specific affective responses for research, therapeutic or leisure applications.

The HTI group is seeking an enthusiastic early career researcher to work on this project with us. The tasks of the PhD student will be to collect and analyze emotional responses towards photographs of indoor environments in a large survey campaign, integrating insights from environmental psychology and artificial intelligence, to write scientific articles, and to complete a PhD dissertation within four years. The student will also participate in conferences, workshops, seminars and other scholarly activities, and contribute to teaching (such as by acting as Teaching Assistant in courses and supervising BSc and MSc students).

You will conduct your research under the supervision of Dr. Kynthia Chamilothori, Prof. Yvonne de Kort, and Sanne Schoenmakers of the HTI group. You will be a member of the HTI group, which has a warm and welcoming PhD community, and of the EAISI institute.


  • A (nearly) completed MSc in (Environmental) Psychology, Human-Technology Interaction, or a related discipline with a demonstrable interest in big data/ML/AI, or an MSc and set of interests and skills roughly equivalent to this
  • Experience in empirical research on humans
  • A strong interest in environmental psychology and its theories
  • A research-oriented attitude
  • Advanced data analysis skills
  • Experience with Machine Learning and/or neural networks is a considered a plus
  • You have strong conceptual thinking and planning skills, are creative and proactive
  • You are excited to work in an interdisciplinary team
  • Fluent in spoken and written English, and have excellent verbal as well as written communication skills.


  • A meaningful job in a dynamic and ambitious university with the possibility to present your work at international conferences.
  • A full-time employment for four years, with an intermediate evaluation (go/no-go) after nine months.
  • To develop your teaching skills, you will spend 10% of your employment on teaching tasks.
  • To support you during your PhD and to prepare you for the rest of your career, you will make a Training and Supervision plan and you will have free access to a personal development program for PhD students (PROOF program).
  • A gross monthly salary and benefits (such as a pension scheme, pregnancy and maternity leave, partially paid parental leave) in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Dutch Universities.
  • Additionally, an annual holiday allowance of 8% of the yearly salary, plus a year-end allowance of 8.3% of the annual salary.
  • Should you come from abroad and comply with certain conditions, you can make use of the so-called ‘30% facility’, which permits you not to pay tax on 30% of your salary.
  • A broad package of fringe benefits, including an excellent technical infrastructure, moving expenses, and savings schemes.
  • Family-friendly initiatives are in place, such as an international spouse program, and excellent on-campus children day care and sports facilities.

Informatie en sollicitatie

About us
Eindhoven University of Technology is a top-ranking Dutch university that combines scientific curiosity with a hands-on attitude. Our spirit of collaboration translates into an open culture and a leading position in collaborating with advanced industries. Fundamental knowledge enables us to design solutions for the highly complex problems of today and tomorrow.

The Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences (IE&IS) is a leading school in the area of industrial engineering and management science as well as innovation sciences. IE&IS has several BSc and MSc programs housed in two separate schools. Research is multi-disciplinary, based on fundamental scientific insights and methods. The school of Industrial Engineering (IE) focuses on the analysis, (re)design, and control of operational processes in organizations and the information systems needed for these processes, and the school of Innovation Sciences (IS) focuses on the realization and impact of technological innovations at the individual, organizational, and societal level. At the heart of our academic philosophy is the synergy between research and teaching.

The Human Technology Interaction (HTI) group is part of the school of IS. It concentrates expertise in social sciences – in particular psychology – and engineering, studying technology in the service of human wellbeing, within the broader context of a socially and ecologically sustainable society. The HTI group has a strong track record in education at the TU/e, running the BSc program Psychology and Technology and a (international) Master program in Human-Technology Interaction. Current research topics at the Human-Technology Interaction group include affective computing, persuasive technology, artificial intelligence, data science, virtual environments, digital gaming, recommender systems, online behavior, natural and artificial light, robotics, and embodied interfaces.

The Eindhoven Artificial Intelligence Systems Institute (EAISI) brings together all AI activities of the TU/e. Researchers from various research groups work together to create new and exciting AI applications with a direct impact on the real world. EAISI focuses on the use of data and algorithms in machines, such as robots, autonomous cars and medical equipment, was well as the interaction between humans and systems.

More information

Do you recognize yourself in this profile and would you like to know more? Please contact
dr. Kynthia Chamilothori, k.chamilothori[at] or prof. Yvonne de Kort, y.a.w.d.kort[at]

For information about terms of employment, click here or contact HR - Services, pz.ieis[at] or +31 40 247 4979.

Please visit to find out more about working at TU/e!


We invite you to submit a complete application by using the 'apply now'-button on this page.
The application should include a:

  • Cover letter in which you describe your motivation and qualifications for the position
  • Curriculum vitae, including a list of your publications and the contact information of three references
  • Brief description of your MSc thesis
  • Grade list
  • A piece of scientific writing, if available (e.g., MSc thesis or thesis chapters if the whole thesis is not available, scientific article, or similar)

We look forward to your application and will screen it as soon as we have received it. The vacancy will remain open until the position is filled.

We do not respond to applications that are sent to us in a different way.

Please keep in mind you can upload only 5 documents up to 2 MB each. If necessary please combine files.