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Call for interview (Graduate Research Assistant)

The School of Computer Sciences, University Sains Malaysia (USM) is looking for a Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) cum PhD candidate who will be working in an interesting collaborative project with the School of Medical Sciences, USM, within Affective Computing. Affective Computing is a new but emerging field in Malaysia, that involves the study and development of systems and devices that can sense, interpret, process, and simulate human affects (emotions).


The aims of this study are to determine the verbal and non-verbal factors of culture-sensitive personalities and affective states (specifically with regards to authentic, genetically proven Malay people), build a Malay-specific emotion model based on these factors (e.g., that can be used in conversations) and finally integrate this model into an artificial agent to automatically sense and express emotions within Malay context. This way, a more localized way of interaction would be integrated in the socially artificial agent that would emphasize on a more naturalistic, empathetic conversation. Apart from that, the candidate will also investigate the connection between the culturally sensitive affective data and social network (e.g., are shy people likely to post on Facebook walls more than those who aren’t). The candidate will have an interesting opportunity to work with a multidisciplinary team, namely geneticist and psychologist, and possibly a roboticist.

The work will cover a range of various tasks:

* The candidate will collect culture-sensitive verbal and non-verbal data through interviews/questionnaires that will be distributed to genetically proven Malays in order to determine factors of culturally-sensitive personality and affective states. The candidate may also record some audiovisual samples of human-human interactions.

* The candidate will perform analyses on the verbal and nonverbal behavior extracted from the interviews/questionnaires and the conversation samples. The candidate will investigate what types of qualitative and affective aspects of social interaction are relevant in determining culturally-related emotion (e.g., shyness) and annotations will be made. (S)he will identify relevant nonverbal cues that correlate with qualitative and affective aspects of social interaction and compare the findings across other cultures to determine statistically significant differences in culture-sensitive emotions.

* Based on these annotations, the candidate will develop algorithms to automatically assess culturally-related qualitative and affective aspects of social interaction.

* The candidate is expected to do some travelling and meet up with other experts in this project.

* The candidate is expected to present his/her work in major (international) conferences and workshops, and to publish in relevant journals.

* The candidate is expected to assist in writing grant proposals and project reports.


* The candidate should have fluent command of English as a written and spoken language. Since the candidate will be working with Malays, knowledge of this language is preferable.

* The candidate has an MSc degree in Computer Science or equivalent (a degree with a technical background, e.g., Artificial Intelligence, Computational Linguistics).

* The candidate is interested in a multidisciplinary research field that includes psychology, emotion, culture, social signal processing, and machine learning, and has good interpersonal communication skills.

* The candidate has programming skills in one of the following languages (or equivalents): Python, Perl, or MATLAB and some familiarity with WEKA.

The expected starting date is around February 2014. Further information about the PhD position can be given by Dr. Syaheerah Lebai Lutfi (email: syaheerah@cs.usm.my) and Prof. Rosni Abdullah (rosni@cs.usm.my). Further information on similar work can be found at www.syaheerah.com.

Interested candidates can email your CV to Dr. Syaheerah Lebai Lutfi. Selected candidates will be contacted via email/ telephone and scheduled for an interview.


We offer a full-time PhD position in a dynamic and multidisciplinary environment. The expected starting date is 1 February 2014. The duration of the contract is three and a half years. The allowance will range from MYR 1,400 in the first year to MYR 2,300 per month in the third year. Candidates will also have the chance to travel nationally and internationally to meet up with experts across fields (within the context of the project) apart from attending international conferences. Additionally, candidates will have the chance to produce journal publications in renowned journals.


The question is not whether intelligent machines can have any emotions, but whether machines can be intelligent without any emotions.

–       Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind, 1986