Project code



School of Creative Technologies

Start dates

October, February and April

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the School of Creative Technologies and will be supervised by Dr Tom Garner, in collaboration with Dr Beatriz Lopez at the Centre for Interaction, Development and Diversity within the Faculty of Science and Health.

The work on this project will:

  • Explore the cutting edge of the interdisciplinary boundaries between immersive technologies, neurodiversity and psychophysiology pertaining to perceptual psychology
  • The successful candidate will work directly with internationally regarded experts in both the digital technology and psychology disciplines
  • They will have the opportunity to work with recognised industry and third sector partners, including Solent NHS Trust, Portsmouth Football Club, PALS Society and Autism Hampshire
  • The successful candidate will also enjoy access to the University of Portsmouth’s world-leading digital facilities within the UoP
  • Centre for Creative and Immersive XR, providing the opportunity to work with equipment including (but not limited to) professional-grade virtual reality headsets, extensive bio-sensing and biofeedback technology and cutting-edge 360 cameras and audiovisual equipment

The project seeks to better understand the cognitive and affective nature of the many everyday scenarios in which individuals with autism or neurodiversity often experience heightened feelings of stress and anxiety. The primary aim is to identify the various triggers within such scenarios and to characterise the unique cognitive, affective and physiological impact that they have upon the individual. The research underpinning this project extends across both knowledge generation and applied study, with the wider aim being to produce a new design framework for empathetic immersive content, specifically for the purposes of enhancing affective and cognitive understanding in healthcare professionals by enabling them to experience immersive content that richly reflects the experiences of neuro-diverse individuals.     

To realise this aim, the successful PhD candidate will conduct various research activities including, but not limited to:

  • Design and carry out a series of experimental studies relevant to the project aims
  • Develop a series of rapid prototypes to support stakeholder engagement and analysis
  • Produce rich data sets drawn from key stakeholder analysis and involvement methods, alongside user-experience/usability testing of prototypes at various iterations of development 
  • Develop a detailed theoretical, design, production and evaluation framework using stakeholder and testing data alongside secondary literature 
  • Review the best pathways to implementation of such software artefacts, with focus upon integration within existing professional training curriculums

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only – eligibility criteria apply).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) and a Master’s degree in Computer Science, Psychology, Digital Games or a closely-related area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.


As a heavily interdisciplinary project, we are looking for candidates with either a strong technical/production background (in digital games technology, computing, film production or equivalent) or psychology (cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, psychophysiology or equivalent). In addition, we are seeking candidates with a good understanding of ASC and neurodiversity.

Experience with the following would be a further advantage:

  • Development of immersive VR applications
  • Production of 360 film, binaural/ambisonic audio
  • Running experiments and stakeholder analysis sessions
  • Working with psychophysiological equipment and data


How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr. Tom Garner ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Digital and Creative Technologies PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

When applying please quote project code: CCTS4541021