PhD studentship in Wearable Activity Trackers

A call is open for one PhD student at the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-ITI) of the University of Madeira (Funchal, Portugal), in the contexts of the “Studying the long-term acceptance of personal health informatics tools” project (CMUP-EPB/TIC/0063/2013) financed by the FCT (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology) under the Carnegie Mellon | Portugal Early Bird 2013 program (CMU|Pt EPB).

Scientific area: Human Computer Interaction

Work plan:

The student will be hired for 12 months and apply for a 3-year scholarship from the regional agency of Research and Development( in the frame of the UT Austin Portugal PhD program in Digital Media( or the CMU Portugal PhD program in Networked Interactive Cyber Physical Systems(

The candidate will work closely with Evangelos Karapanos as well as the project partners, Jodi Forlizzi from Carnegie Mellon University, and Marc Hassenzahl, from Folkwang University of Arts in Germany, and will join a strong team of PhD and MSc students working on the same topic.

The project seeks to understand and design for prolonged engagement with wearable activity trackers. Triggered by recent advances in sensor technology and ultra low power microcontrollers, the market of wearable activity trackers, such as Fitbit, Jawbone up, andNike+ Fuelband, has grossed over $230M in 2013 and is expected to continue its growth. With chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases accounting for nearly 40% of mortality cases and 75% of health care costs, and obesity alone accounting for an estimated 12 percent of the health spending growth in the U.S., wearable activity trackers promise a new health care model that stresses patient-driven prevention.

Yet, researchers have raised concerns over the plausible wear-off of any initial effects on users’ behaviors. A recent survey has found that over a third of owners of wearable activity trackers have discarded them within six months of use.

The goal of the project is to understand the factors that drive users’ long-term engagement with wearable activity trackers, and to design new solutions for prolonged engagement.

Admission requirements:

The ideal candidate will have expertise in Human-Computer Interaction or a closely related field. Having strong analytical and synthetic skills, he or she will be a good observer and exhibit a strong capacity to create novel concepts.

Applicants should fulfill the following requirements:

  • MSc degree or equivalent in Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design or closely related field.

  • Strong oral and written English communication skills, people skills, the ability to work independently as well as a team member and taking the initiative and being proactive;

  • Experience in conducting user studies of innovative prototypes, and/or designing novel solutions.

Legislation and regulations: The scholarships are directed to applicants under the current conditions established on the FCT regulations( and Research Grant Holder Statute.

Work place: The work will be conducted at Madeira-ITI (Funchal, Portugal). M-ITI is an innovation institute whose founding members are the University of Madeira, Madeira Tecnopolo S. A. and Carnegie Mellon University. M-ITI operates in the interdisciplinary domain of human-computer interaction encapsulating contributions from computer science, psychology and design in order to address and engage in important scientific and technological challenges that are both relevant to society and have significant economic impact.

Scholarship length: The scholarship will have an expected duration of 1 year, with an expected start in November 2014

Monthly stipend: The student will receive a stipend of 980€/month as determined by the FCT regulations( Voluntary Social Security (SSV) and accidents insurance are included.

How to apply: Submit your CV, cover letter, and (optionally) up to 2 recommendation letters to by November 5th, 2014. Interested candidates are encouraged to contact Evangelos Karapanos for further information on the post.