Aura CDT & ORE Catapult PhD Scholarship: Evaluating the impact of motion travel on cognitive ability of offshore workers: a VR experience


Funded PG Dip and PhD


4 years (full-time)

Application deadline:

Sunday 16 August 2020

About this project

The UK is committed to the use of offshore wind energy to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The EPSRC-NERC Aura Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Offshore Wind Energy and the Environment will enable delivery of this target by developing environmental and engineering solutions to key offshore wind sector challenges; thereby supporting a sustainable energy supply. In partnership with Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (ORE Catapult), a 4-year taught and research industry-sponsored Aura CDT PhD is offered. The PhD directly addresses sector needs to understand motion sickness effects on offshore technicians.

Working on offshore wind turbines can provide many challenges to the individual, not least a long boat journey out to the platforms. This can potentially induce nausea, light headedness and dizziness amongst other conditions, especially in rough weather conditions.

This project will look at measuring the impact of varying duration journeys in varying weather conditions through Virtual Reality and Motion System simulation. We will evaluate the effect that these journeys can have on short-term cognitive ability to undergo work tasks. This study will use measures such as the NASA-TLX (Task Load Index), a proven diagnostic tool for evaluating the task performance of an individual or team. Through this we can better understand the measures and conditions that impede performance. Utilising VR eye tracking technology we can also evaluate a participant’s gaze, eye saccades, focus and attention whilst on the journey from shore to their place of work.

Once there is an understanding of the impact the travel can have on short-term cognitive ability and performance, the project will look at techniques such as EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and other visual stimulus techniques that relate to the visual cues leading to disorientation and sickness.

The project would lead to a greater understanding of the impact of sea travel on performance, but also allow for VR solutions that could be utilised by workers as they travel to sites. Using VR technology such as the self-contained oculus quest, users would be able to don the headsets before beginning their journey, and through specifically tailored stimuli, it may be possible to counteract the effects of vessel motion.

The post is available from September 2020 as a full-time position. You will join Cohort 2 of the Aura CDT in Hull, in the heart of the UK’s Energy Estuary – the global centre for research, innovation and development for the sector. Initially, you will study for a Postgraduate Diploma in Offshore Wind Energy and the Environment, followed by a 3-year PhD supported by ORE Catapult.

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This full-time ORE Catapult PhD Scholarship will include fees at the ‘Home/EU/International' student rate and maintenance (£15,285 per annum, 2020/21 rate) for four years, depending on satisfactory progress.

Entry requirements

If you have received a First-class Honours degree or a 2:1 Honours degree and a Masters (or the international equivalents) in Computer Science, Psychology, Engineering, Geography / Geology, Medicine / Biology or associated subjects, we would like to hear from you. If you are passionate about this research project and have a STEM / Social Science background you are very welcome to apply.

If your first language is not English, or you require Tier 4 student visa to study, you will be required to provide evidence of your English language proficiency level that meets the requirements of the Aura CDT’s academic partners. This course requires academic IELTS 7.0 overall, with no less than 6.0 in each skill.

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How to Apply

Please apply online which enables you to track the progress of your application and upload supporting documents.

The online form can be accessed here. You will need to create a University of Hull MyAdmin account in order to make your application.

All applicants choose Aura CDT from the ‘Programme Type’ drop-down box.

Applicants for Industry Partner Scholarships should also choose the appropriate research project title from the ‘Scholarship’ drop down box.

With your application, you need to upload copies of the following supporting evidence:

  • complete transcripts (and final degree certificate(s) where possible). If your qualification documents are not in English, you will need to supply copies of your original language documents as well as their official translation into English.
  • current Curriculum Vitae.
  • personal statement (please see guidance below on what you need to include in your statement).

Guidance on completing your personal statement

Your personal statement should be around 2 pages long. In your statement you should highlight:

  • your interest in the Aura CDT and the research proposal and how it fits with your career aspirations
  • how your previous study links with the Aura CDT and the research proposal
  • why you have an interest in offshore wind and the environment, particularly if your background is in an academic discipline not included in the list above
  • relevant work experience or other experience relevant to the Aura CDT
  • anything else you would like to tell us about yourself that makes you a great candidate.

Please also describe:

  • any relevant research experience (such as a project completed during a previous degree)
  • any academic work you have published or which is awaiting publication including venue/s
  • why you believe you are the best candidate to study with the Aura CDT.

International students must tell us about all prior UK study (whether completed/passed or not, including any short courses).