Design PhD scholarship

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

We are seeking an enthusiastic PhD student from any relevant social science, psychology, nursing, or design background to conduct a research project about meeting the emotional, practical, and cognitive needs of people who make decisions and perform tasks while under pressure.

This project will have relevance across healthcare, transport, manufacturing, logistics, and emergency service environments, in scenarios where people are compelled to use safety-critical controls to perform high-risk tasks, but without having any choice over the makeup of those machines. These people are burdened users of sensitive devices.

Controls like these are routinely created based on mitigating risks and on adherence to established usability principles. However, this often overlooks the day-to-day experience of the human tasked with using them, including their emotions, attitudes, and motivations. Your project will develop evidence to support new ways of accommodating these ill-defined factors into a robust solution.

You will gather insights and test solutions in the context of burdened users who are experiencing life with an uncommon but critical life support device – a mechanical heart which replaces a failing native organ. This is an exciting opportunity to work with industry partner BiVACOR Pty. Ltd., researchers across several institutes, and to contextualise your research in the development of life-extending products. The scholarship is part of ARC LP LP200100336 “Design Guidelines for Safety-critical Controllers in High-risk Environments”.

This position is located at our picturesque St Lucia campus, renowned as one of Australia’s most attractive university campuses, and located just 7km from Brisbane’s city centre. Bounded by the Brisbane River on three sides, and with outstanding public transport connections, our 114-hectare site provides a perfect work environment – you can enjoy the best of both worlds: a vibrant campus with the tradition of an established university.

Research Experience and expectations:

Research experience and expectations include, but are not limited to: 

  • Conducting human-centred qualitative data collection and analysis 
  • Creative synthesis of competing factors to generate and test hypotheses
  • Formal written, spoken, and graphical communication skills

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Professor Cara Wrigley

Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

previous academic record

  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

Alongside the completion of a degree in a relevant social science, psychology, or design field, we would look favourably on applicants with the following skills:

  • Experience in medical and/or health design research and/or practice.
  • Ability to work independently.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team and liaise with internal and external stakeholders. 
  • Demonstrated ability to manage competing priorities, and excellent time management skills. 
  • Experience working with patients, careers, and hospital stakeholders in research settings.

Special Requirements

Some domestic travel may be required for data collection and or project reporting.

You must have unrestricted work rights in Australia for the duration of this appointment to apply. Visa sponsorship is not available for this appointment.

We value diversity and inclusion, and actively encourage applications from those who bring diversity to the University. Our Diversity and Inclusion webpage contains further information if you require additional support. Accessibility requirements and/or adjustments can be directed to

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2023. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process