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PhD position “Design Your Life: empowering autistic young adults in daily life”


The University of Twente, in collaboration with care organizations Karakter JeugdGGZ, Leo Kannerhuis and Assortimens, and stakeholder organisations Nederlandse Vereniging voor Autisme, Balans and Stichting Neurodiversiteit, offers an NWO funded phd position within the project: 
Design Your Life: Developing and validating a practice-centered participatory design approach to empower autistic young adults in daily life.

The project focuses on empowering young adults on the autism spectrum who wish to develop more independence in daily life. One may think of adolescents who wish to become less dependent on their parents, up to semi-independent living young adults who still need some form of supervision. For this group, assistive, interactive technologies could provide practical support in daily life. At the same time, each individual person has very specific personal needs: there is no one size fits all. The project starts from the vision that young adults and their care-givers together may be best placed to design the solutions for individual needs, while also making use of a persons’ unique interests and talents. Moreover, designing your own supportive tools can be an empowering process in its own right, creating self-insight and adding to experienced autonomy. 
This position will be hosted by the chair on Human Centered Design of the Faculty of Engineering Technology in collaboration with the chair of clinical Child- and Youth Psychiatry at Radboud UMCN.

The department
Within the Faculty of Engineering Technology, the Department of Design Engineering focuses on research, education and application of the broad industrial design process, ranging from the analysis of context and users to the realization of products and product service systems. The chair on Human Centred Design develops design approaches and tools that enable all types of stakeholders to actively engage and participate in collaboratively exploring and defining potential futures. Overall aim is to elicit actual stakeholder needs, create commitment and understanding, and design products, services & systems that meet these needs and expectations. Acknowledgement of the use and context related expertise each stakeholder has is key herein. The approaches we develop are participatory and scenario-based. They facilitate and empower active stakeholder participation regardless of discipline, experience or role. Moreover, they contextualize the design challenge. Techniques as workshops, gaming, virtual reality and collaborative prototyping are frequently part of these approaches. The chair is currently active in several research projects aimed at empowering people through co-design.

The chair is well embedded in the DesignLab. In your research you can make use of the social- and physical infrastructure of the DesignLab, a creative and cross-disciplinary ecosystem, connecting science and society by way of applied design research. DesignLab connects scientific, technological and creative insights, and works on impactful solutions for societal challenges.

Job description

You will conduct a participatory design research, actively collaborating with a number of individual young adults on the autism spectrum, as well as with various people in their local support network (amongst others the care professionals of the involved organisations). Together with the participants you research, develop and test a hands-on ‘co-design toolkit’ that enables young adults to create and implement their own practical assistive tools to increase their independence in daily life. You develop and test the effectiveness of the toolkit together with relevant stakeholders and contribute to the implementation of the method within the care organizations involved. You also help setting up and supporting an active (online) user community where experiences and best practices are shared.

Your profile

Education and Experience: 
You have a master degree in industrial design, human-computer interaction, human-technology interaction or comparable. You have hands-on experience in participatory design research; for example working with cultural probes, co-design workshops, or iterative user evaluations with mock-ups and prototypes. You are familiar with terms like: context-mapping, scenario-based design, stakeholder mapping, service design, design for behavior change, critical design, value-sensitive design. You are skilled in lo-fi rapid prototyping (creating mock-ups and tinkering with technologies in service of research-and-design iterations). Experience with (care for, designing for) people on the autism spectrum is an 

Personal profile:
You have a creative and critical and open-minded attitude, combined with perseverance and being flexible, and a willingness to learn new things. You have strong social skills and able to build empathic relationships with participants, especially those who have communication challenges. You are not afraid to creatively explore (new) ways of communicating that fit the needs and motivations of participants in order to uncovering their ideas, wishes and needs.  You are a well-organized team-player and a bridge-builder between various disciplines ranging from social tot technical. 

You are a good writer and visualiser, you are motivated to produce academic articles and to present at scientific conferences. You have fluent English language skills, both in writing and speaking; having also fluent Dutch language skills is an advantage.


For additional information regarding this position, you can contact dr. J. van Dijk: 
You can submit your application letter through the link below, including a recent CV, before Aug 1, 2020. 

Our offer

•  a full-time four-year position with a two months probation period; 
• The gross monthly salary starts with € 2395,- per month in the first year and increases to € 3061,- per month in the fourth year of your employment based on a full-time employment;
• A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%;
• A solid pension scheme;
• Minimum of 29 holidays in case of full-time employment;
• Professional and personal development programs.

The organization

The University of Twente. We stand for life sciences and technology. High tech and human touch. Education and research that matter. New technology which leads change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university of the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programmes. We have a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out groundbreaking research.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status or disability status. Because of our diversity values we do particularly support women to apply.

The Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET) is one of the five faculties of the University of Twente. ET combines Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering. Our faculty has approximately 1800 bachelor and master students, 400 employees and 150 PhD candidates. The departments of the faculty cooperatively conduct the educational programmes and participate in interdisciplinary research projects, programmes and the research institutes: Mesa+ Institute, TechMed Centra and Digital Society Institute.
PhD position “Design Your Life: empowering autistic young adults in daily life”
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