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PhD Studentship - Commonsense Reasoning in Conversational AI

Understanding and Developing Commonsense Reasoning in Conversational AI via Natural Language Processing

  • Delivery:
    Full time according to Funding Council definitions

PhD studentship - Understanding and Developing Commonsense Reasoning in Conversational AI via Natural Language Processing

This project will be part of BU Doctoral Training Centre - Centre for Digital Entertainment (CDE).

The Intelligent Virtual Personal Assistant consists of three landmark components that enable Intel-PA to perform human-like communications with real humans. These are: sensible conversations; appropriate body gestures and facial expressions; and the ability to detect the motion and emotions of the human user. By performing such human-like functions, Intel-PA will be able to play a huge role in assisting mankind in countless applications, such as healthcare, training, education, marketing and decision making, to name but a few.

However, most existing conversational AIs only work on context information with pre-defined actions and cannot understand the user intents and reactions. Commonsense reasoning in conversational AI is believed to be the key to solve this problem. Bringing commonsense into Conversational AI understanding, inference and generation is considered to be the next breakthrough in Intelligent Virtual Personal Assistant.

This research project aims to bring an in-depth understanding of commonsense reasoning, investigate how commonsense can help build conversational AI with natural responses to different user’s intent, and model aspects of commonsense inference via NPL and deep learning framework. The project will try to apply commonsense inference for domain applications such as healthcare, education and marketing. The experiment will include creating conversational AI with a range of commonsense knowledge to interact with real humans.

Therefore, this project will pursue three mutually supportive research and development paths: 1) advancing the theoretical frontiers of common sense reasoning in conversational AI; 2) building user satisfaction modules to improve engagement via evaluation; 3) developing and producing practical applications.

Find out more about the Centre for Digital Entertainment.

This is a fully funded PhD Studentship which includes a stipend of £15,450 each year to support your living costs.

This project is conditional upon the funding being secured.

The closing date for applications is 31 October 2021.

Key information

Next start date:

24 January 2022

Location:

Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus

Duration:

4 years

Entry requirements:

Entry requirements: Outstanding academic potential as measured normally by either a 1st class honours degree or equivalent Grade Point Average (GPA), or a Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent. If English is not your first language you'll need IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent). For more information check out our full entry requirements

Additional criteria:

The applicant should have experience of computer science, machine learning system, Natural Language Processing.

International entry requirements:

Candidates for a PhD Studentship should demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 4 years and must demonstrate:

  • an IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent) for candidates for whom English is not their first language and this must be evidenced at point of application.

Project details

This project will be part of BU Doctoral Training Centre - Centre for Digital Entertainment (CDE).

The Intelligent Virtual Personal Assistant consists of three landmark components that enable Intel-PA to perform human-like communications with real humans. These are: sensible conversations; appropriate body gestures and facial expressions; and the ability to detect the motion and emotions of the human user. By performing such human-like functions, Intel-PA will be able to play a huge role in assisting mankind in countless applications, such as healthcare, training, education, marketing and decision making, to name but a few. Taking healthcare as an example, we all are aware of the acute pressure the NHS is under and it usually takes a long wait even to see our GP. If some/most of the GP’s tasks can be undertaken by Intel-PA, it will not only save the NHS a huge budget, but also significantly shorten the waiting time. In addition to the role of a GP assistant, in healthcare alone there are many other applications where Intel-PA can play an important assisting role. 

Research in this area is still at a very early stage. The aim of this research is to investigate and create novel algorithms and techniques leading to the development of the three landmark components of Intel-PA. The initial six projects will define the research focus for the six PhD students. Working as a multidisciplinary team of researchers and supervisors, we will demonstrate the research by developing an Intelligent Neur-Assistant, an AI-powered conversational animated avatar that can have a plausible initial consultation with a patient with neurological conditions by integrating these six projects. All students will have to contribute to the overall objectives of the research with each of them concentrating on an individual research project.

This project will be part of BU Doctoral Training Centre - Centre for Digital Entertainment – Intelligent Virtual Personal Assistant (Intel-PA). The initial six projects will define the research focus for the six PhD students. Working as a multidisciplinary team of researchers and supervisors, we will demonstrate the research by developing an Intelligent Neur-Assistant, an AI-powered conversational animated avatar that can have a plausible initial consultation with a patient with neurological conditions by integrating these six projects. All students will have to contribute to the overall objectives of the research with each of them concentrating on an individual research project.

Find out more about the Centre for Digital Entertainment.

View the full project description pdf(317KB)

The closing date for applications is 31 October 2021. 

Supervisors

Professor Wen Tang

Professor Wen Tang is originally an Engineering graduate from China and made the transition into Computer Science during her PhD study at the University of Leeds, UK. After completing her PhD, she was a research fellow at the University of Leeds and the University of Bradford on two EU funded projects on collaborative virtual reality software technologies. Between 1999-2015, she was a Reader of Computer Graphics and Games Technology in the School of Computing at the Teesside University. Wen joined Bournemouth University in January 2015 and appointed Professor of Digital Games Technology in April 2016.

Please contact Professor Wen Tang for informal enquiries: wtang@bournemouth.ac.uk 

Professor Jian Jun Zhang

Please contact Professor Jian Jun Zhang for informal enquiries:  jzhang@bournemouth.ac.uk

Funding

A fully-funded Studentship includes a maintenance grant of £15,450 per year to contribute towards living expenses during the course of your research, as well as a fee waiver for 48 months. 

Associated costs, such as for fieldwork and conference attendance, will also be met under the Studentship.

Academic support

The Research Development Programme, developed by the Doctoral College in line with the Researcher Development Framework (Vitae).

An added benefit is the opportunity to meet researchers from other academic schools at BU through the activities of the Doctoral College and benefit from their experiences, skills, and perspectives.

Full entry requirements

The BU PhD and MRes Studentships are open to UK, EU and International students.

Candidates for a PhD Studentship should demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 4 years and must demonstrate:

  • Outstanding academic potential as measured normally by either a 1st class honours degree (or equivalent Grade Point Average (GPA) or a Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent
  • An IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent) for candidates for whom English is not their first language and this must be evidenced at point of application.

In addition to satisfying minimum entry criteria, BU will look closely at the qualities, skills and background of each candidate and what they can bring to their chosen research project in order to ensure successful completion.

Applicants will be asked to submit an online application form and a proposal (approximately 1500 words) outlining their understanding of the project for which they are applying, the approach they would envisage taking and what qualities they will bring to the research community.

Please note:

  • current BU Doctoral students are not eligible to apply for a Studentship
  • current MRes/MPhil students can apply, subject to satisfactory completion of their Research Degree prior to being able to take up the award
  • PhD Studentships cannot be used to support BU staff to complete doctoral programmes.

International entry requirements

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally: 

IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 (with a minimum 6.0 in each component) or equivalent.

View further information about our English language requirements.

A number of pre-sessional English and preparatory programmes are offered through our partner institution, Bournemouth University International College, and will get you ready for study at BU at the appropriate level.

You can also find further details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our postgraduate entry requirements page.

How to apply

Click the green ‘Apply now’ button at the top of the page and complete the online application form. You can find further guidance about applying for a postgraduate research degree in our Postgraduate Research section.

The closing date for applications is 31 October 2021.

Careers

A research degree can open new career opportunities in commercial research and development, consultancy, or could lead you to starting your own business. You may alternatively consider a career in academia. You may wish to undertake research to contribute to your knowledge of a specialist subject, or develop your employability by enhancing your skills in project management and analysis.

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Fees and funding

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