The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2017 | participatory self-quantification for patients through IoT-based medical devices
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Participatory self-quantification for patients through IoT-based medical devices

Principal supervisor: Professor George Roussos (Bbk)

Co-supervisor: Dr Mina Vasalou (UCL IOE)

Sustained advances in microelectronics have enabled the integration of miniaturised information processing devices and low-power wireless communication into a wide range of physical objects. These artefacts integrate seamlessly with information networks thus bringing about the Internet of Things (IoT) and its ecosystem of applications and services which offer the potential to fundamentally transform the ways in which citizens consume health care services by blending the until recently separate physical and digital experiences into one. Indeed, most personal experiences of well-being and disease remain largely unobserved and the IoT is about to change this situation. Yet despite its promise, there is accumulating evidence to suggest that users only briefly engage in these opportunities, leading to high abandonment rates of IoT-based wellness and health tracking services (e.g. Arthur 2012, Farago 2014, Rapp et al. 2016). This is often seen as the consequence of a technology-rather than a patient-driven approach and an alternative perspective is that IoT developers should design for people and communities who conceive of the benefits of data fusion as they fit with their existing agendas such as people already involved in forms of self-reflection and activism or self-advocacy relating to their disease. This PhD will examine this question in the particular context of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Specifically, we aim to understand current practices of patient activism, advocacy and self-tracking (or self-quantification) in PD; and, understand the transformative role of the IoT in giving agency and voice to individuals and communities.

Candidate Requirements:

This PhD is aimed at graduates with a strong interest in multi-disciplinary research. Research will be organised around case studies to be developed 'in the wild' where the student will conduct participatory research with patients to understand how the IoT changes practice and can enable patient empowerment.

The student should be familiar with qualitative research methods and user-centred design practices. Good knowledge or experience in one or more of the following areas is desirable: social science and health research; IoT technologies; information visualisation; participatory design; ethnographic research methods.

Key References:

[1] J.R. Brubaker, C. Lustig and G.R. Hayes, ``PatientsLikeMe: empowerment and representation in a patient-centred social network,'' CSCW 2010; Workshop on Research in Healthcare: Past, Present, and Future, Feb 6-10.

[2] S. Kueppers, I. Daskalopoulos, A. Jha,, From Wellness to Medical Diagnostic apps: The Parkinson's Disease Case. Proc. Int. Conf. on Personal, Pervasive and mobile Health.

[3] Arthur, C. (2014) Wearables: One-third of consumers abandoning devices. Guardian, 1 Apr.

[4] Farago, P (2012)  App Engagement: The Matrix Reloaded, Flurry Analytics.

[5] A. Rapp and F. Cena. 2016. Personal informatics for everyday life. Int. J. Hum.-Comput. Stud. 94, 1-17.

Further detail about the project may be obtained from:

Principal supervisor: Professor George Roussos (

Co-supervisor: Dr Mina Vasalou (

Further information about PhDs at Birkbeck is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

Closing date for application is:

The application period is open ended