PhD Scholarship Opportunity to Work on 'Robotics, Enhanced Humans and the Future of Work' Project

The University of Wollongong’s School of Geography and Sustainable Communities is currently offering a PhD scholarship for a student to work on an ARC Discovery Project entitled 'Robotics, Enhanced Humans and the Future of Work'.

The project is being led by Professor Anthony Elliott (University of South Australia) with Dr Thomas Birtchnell (University of Wollongong), Dr David Bissell (Australian National University) and Dr Eric Hsu (University of South Australia).

From the automated checkout in the supermarket to the 3D printer in the library, robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are in our lives more than ever. Newspapers regularly feature articles on driverless cars, rovers on Mars or supercomputers competing with humans in chess or Go. While much anecdotal information is now widely available there is a pressing need for research on how these technologies will alter our lifestyles, social practices and habits in the future. Technological innovations in networked, automated, AI and robotic devices are unleashing a transformation in work and employment as far-reaching as the industrial revolution. Automation in the workforce is not new, but technological developments now threaten entire professions. Indeed, this global transition to a robot economy has been widely described as heralding a possible ‘jobless future’.

The PhD studentship will research the geographical and sociological impacts of seismic shifts in automation, robotics and AI. A geographical perspective is timely since advances in machine learning and sensory capabilities rely on geospatial innovations. A focus will be how demand is being created for digital skills around mobility and mobile technology. Drawing together human geography, science and technology studies, sociology and social theory in a reflective configuration, the project is investigating how current and future technological changes penetrate well beyond the marketplace into society.

This PhD scholarship is designed to be an integral but self-contained part of the project. Applicants are required to write a short proposal outlining a research project on the broad topic of ‘Socio-Technical Systems, Automation and the Digitization of Space’, summarising the project’s aims, methods and potential contribution to academic literature/policy debates. A wide variety of projects will be considered. Appropriate fieldwork methods, sampling strategy and analytical techniques will be developed during the first year of the candidature. The project will be supervised by Dr Thomas Birtchnell.

Domestic students are eligible to apply.

The successful candidate will receive a stipend of $26,682 (2017 rate) per year which will be indexed annually for the duration of the award. The duration of the award shall be for three years.

To be eligible, a student must have completed a Bachelor Degree in human geography, management studies, sociology, politics, science and technology studies or a related discipline with First Class Honours, or be regarded by UOW as having an equivalent level of attainment; and intend on undertaking a full time higher degree by research by September 2017.

How to apply

Applicants should submit:

1. A cover letter; a short proposal outlining the research project, a CV and relevant academic transcripts to Dr Thomas Birtchnell, email

2. A full Higher Degree Research (HDR) admission application, available at

Deadline for applications: Friday, 21st July 2017
For inquiries in the first instance, please contact Dr Thomas Birtchnell, email: Phone: +61 2 4239 2540.


Image: 'Industrial Robot Painter' by Claudio Moderini (CC BY SA 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons.