Deakin-Coventry Cotutelle - AI-supported virtual reality for well-being in space

This is a doctoral Cotutelle project in ‘in human-computer interaction, machine learning, and space medicine between Deakin University (Australia) and Coventry University (United Kingdom).'

Deakin Project Supervisor


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus (Australia) and Coventry University (United Kingdom)

Research topic

This is a doctoral cotutelle project between Deakin University (Australia) and Coventry University (UK).

The successful PhD Student will be awarded a scholarship from Deakin University with the supervision team being drawn from Deakin University and Coventry University. The PhD Student will graduate with two testamurs, one from Deakin University and one from Coventry University, each of which recognises that the program was carried out as part of a jointly supervised doctoral program. The program is for a duration of 4 years and scheduled to commence in September 2023.

The PhD Student is anticipated to up to 12 months of the total period of the program at Coventry University, with the remainder of the program based at Deakin University.

This project intends to investigate and develop an AI-based platform to support well-being of astronauts on long-duration space missions in Low Earth Orbit, to the Moon and Mars and those in ICE (Isolated, Confined, and Extreme) environments on Earth. In this platform, wearable sensors will used to measure and monitor users’ emotional states immersed in virtual reality experiences.

Project aim

Isolated, confined, and extreme (ICE) environments present various physical and psychological challenges. Advances in technology and propulsion systems mean that planned deep space missions, to Mars and beyond, will take place sometime in the future. Although human beings have evolved over millions of years to survive and even thrive in their natural habitat, space presents an inhospitable and extreme environment that will interfere with the crew’s natural adaptation and acclimatisation processes.

As it stands, there is a gap in knowledge on the physiological and psychological effects of missions such as this, however, based on past ISS and ICE research we can conclude that deep space missions will present unique stressors and challenges which inevitably increase the risk of crew members developing psychotic, depressive or anxiety disorders. Furthermore, maintaining the psychological welfare of the crew will be imperative on such missions to mitigate the risk of negative consequences on both physical and cognitive performance. Although space health has advanced recently, there is a gap in research on usable monitoring devices and effective countermeasures that can support the crew’s mental health on deep space missions. With this in mind, we have prototyped a multifunctional platform that measures, monitors and supports the mental health of the crew. The platform combines virtual reality with wearable sensors, featuring simple interfaces that allow for the collection of and interaction with data. In this platform, we integrate the astronomical heritage scenes with music and meditation as Virtual reality content, to promote relaxation, positive emotions, and strengthen a sense of belonging.

To develop this platform and explore the heritage experiences, we will run a data collection hub at the museums in Australia and the UK to measure the emotional states of visitors participating in the virtual heritage experience using wearable sensors such as EEG, ECG, eye gaze tracking, galvanic skin response. The data will reveal the type and degree of emotional impact the content has on users and help identify valuable heritage content to use in immersive environments. The results will support efforts to develop a new physiological signal-based emotion recognition system to measure the emotional states of the people who participate in virtual heritage experiences.

Aims and objectives

The overarching aim of this research project is to develop an AI-based platform to measure the mental status of the museum visitors (level of stress and basic emotions), to investigate whether heritage experiences have a positive effect on emotional states or not and to select the experiences that decrease the level of stress and increase positive emotions.

Expected outcome

The project’s outcomes will include:

  • A new AI-based platform to measure the emotional states using heritage experiences and find the best and most suitable experiences that can reduce negative emotional states like sadness, anger and stress.
  • A collection of heritage experiences data to be used for astronauts.

This project is a pilot study but will provide initial results for potential scaling up (with the industry partner) to be applied for the astronaut's space simulation.

Research Questions

In this study, we will address the below research questions through collaborative trans-disciplinary partnerships in both countries:

  • RQ1: How can machine learning and wearable sensors support measuring emotions of the users and monitor their well-being?

In this project we will propose an AI-based model to measure the emotional state of museum visitors using wearable sensors and select the best. This study will target the publications in the computer science, machine learning and human-computer interaction areas.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, 27 May 2023

Please be aware that screening for this advert will commence immediately and the scholarship may be awarded prior to the closing date.


This scholarship is supported by Deakin University, is available over 3 years and includes:

  • Stipend of $30,000 per annum tax exempt (2023 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate
  • International students only:  Single Overseas Student Health Cover policy for the duration of the student visa.
  • Full Tuition Fee Waiver for up to 4 years
  • Funding to support travel of PhD Student between Deakin University and Coventry University

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet the PhD entry requirements of both Deakin University and Coventry university, including English language proficiency requirements (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)
  • be enrolling full time and/or part-time
  • be able to physically locate to both Coventry University (United Kingdom) and Deakin University (Australia)

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page and Coventry’s research entry criteria page for further information.

How to apply

Applicants should firstly contact Dr Bahareh Nakisa to discuss the project. After discussing your application with the Deakin Supervisor, you will be required to submit an Expression of interest directly with the relevant Faculty.If successful, you will be invited by Deakin University to lodge a formal HDR application.

The successful applicant will also be required to lodge a separate PhD application to Coventry University via the 'Making an Application' page.

Please be aware that screening for this advert will commence immediately and the scholarship may be awarded prior to the closing date.

Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact:

Dr Bahareh Nakisa
+61 3 522 73816