PhD Position in Applied Gaming for Reducing Loneliness of Children with Chronic Diseases

Utrecht University



Job Description

We seek to fill a 5-year (1.0 fte, or longer at 0.8 fte) PhD position on creating an applied gaming intervention for reducing loneliness of children with chronic diseases. The position is available immediately – with an ideal starting date of November 15 – and is part of a cooperation between the Wilhelmina Children's Hospital (WKZ) and applied game and playful interaction designer IJsfontein.

The project investigates to what extent stimulating or modifying play behaviour through an applied game can enhance the adaptability of a child to a (chronic) stressful condition. A well-designed applied game for children with a chronic disease will ideally promote short- and long-term social and emotional development, thereby strengthening the basis for their future health and behaviour.

The PhD candidate will work in a team contributing to the theoretical foundation of the applied gaming intervention, the design and development of the game intervention (in collaboration with IJsfontein), performing user-studies with children. Other aspects of the work is sharing the results at international conferences and in scientific journals, completing a PhD thesis, and guiding student projects.

The PhD candidate will be embedded within the Department of Information and Computing Sciences of Utrecht University. The PhD project is part of the interdisciplinary research programme Healthy Play, Better Coping.


We invite PhD candidates with a profile showing the following aspects:

  • algorithmic/computational thinking, demonstrated by a Master degree in Computer Science, Information Science, Artificial Intelligence, or a related field of science;
  • good written and oral communication skills in English;
  • sincere motivation for working on the theme of child development;
  • acommitment to working in an interdisciplinary research environment (together and within the company IJsfontein);
  • previous experience with developmental psychology or cognitive science is a plus.

Candidates of all nationalities may apply. The university is striving for a more even gender balance in its research and teaching staff, and women are especially encouraged to apply for these positions. Personal circumstances that may be of positive relevance in merit evaluation, for example parental leave, should be mentioned in the list of qualifications (CV).


The candidate is offered a position for 5 years (1.0 FTE). The position has 70% time allocated for research and 30% for teaching. This should allow candidates to start developing balanced academic careers as independent researchers and competent teachers. Salary starts at €2,325 and increases to €2,972 (P-scale Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) gross per month in the fifth year of the appointment.

The salary is supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition we offer: a pension scheme, a partially paid parental leave, flexible employment conditions. Conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities. The research group will provide the candidate with necessary support on all aspects of the project. More information is available on the website.

About the Organization

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The city of Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with a charming old centre and an internationally oriented culture that is strongly influenced by its century-old university. Utrecht city has been consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the Netherlands.

The Faculty of Science consists of six Departments: Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Information and Computing Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Mathematics. The Faculty is home to 6,500 students and nearly 1,500 staff and is internationally renowned for the quality of its research. The Faculty's academic programmes reflect developments in today's society. Read the overall impression 2018 of the Faculty of Science.

The Department of Information and Computing Sciences is nationally and internationally renowned for its research in Computer Science and Information Science. Current research groups are Algorithmic Data Analysis, Algorithms and Complexity, Decision Support Systems, Simulation of Complex Systems, Geometric Computing, Multimedia, Human-Centered Computing, Social and Affective Computing, Visualisation and Graphics, Interaction Technology, Process Management and Analytics, Organization and Information, Natural Language Processing, Intelligent Systems, Data Intensive Systems, Software Technology and Software Technology of Learning and Teaching.

Additional Information

For additional information about the vacancy, please contact Dr. Sander Bakkes ( A more extensive description of the research project is available upon request. Promising candidates will be granted an interview in person, or by video conference (for international candidates). As part of the selection procedure, the candidate is expected to give an oral presentation about his/her master research.


To apply, please attach a letter of motivation, curriculum vitae, a copy of the MSc thesis (if available), names and contact details of two references. The application must be done in English.

In your application, please refer to


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