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ANIMAL CONTACT – an interdisciplinary project focusing on measuring behavioural, physiological and psychometric responses to contact with dogs

Applications are invited for a PhD fellowship/scholarship at Graduate School of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Animal Science programme. The position is available from 1 March 2020 or later.

Title:
ANIMAL CONTACT – an interdisciplinary project focusing on measuring behavioural, physiological and psychometric responses to contact with dogs

Research area and project description:
The use of animals in animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and support from e.g. service dogs (animal assistance) for vulnerable people or patients with psychiatric diagnoses have the potential to become an important non-pharmacological treatment supplement or treatment alternative. However, the causal relationships between specific treatment elements that involve contact to and activities with animals have not been related to the traditional measures of effect. This interdisciplinary project investigates how immediate and quantifiable responses relate to traditional effect measures in order to help identify effective elements.

The PhD candidate will be part of a large research project - ANIMAL CONTACT – that aims to identify and quantify objective non-invasive measures of the immediate effect of contact to animals in standardised experimental and simulated AAT setups with healthy test persons, and subsequently use these measures on two target populations; nursing home residents and military veterans with PTSD.

We aim to clarify the relationship between different levels of contact to a dog and the immediate behavioural and physiological responses and effect measures of mental health. The potential physiological measures are cardiac measures, cortisol, oxytocin and galvanic skin response (GSR), as well as accelerometer data on activity and sleep. The project will provide knowledge and techniques to identify which treatment elements have the strongest impact in therapeutic applications of animals, in order to enable evidence-based refinement of AAT interventions and other types of animal assistance. In the last part of the study, we will use the selected measures to test and quantify the effects of animal contact in two highly relevant target populations; nursing home residents during dog visits and military veterans living with a dog.

The successful applicant will be part of an interdisciplinary research team including researchers working within the fields of ethology, psychology and psychiatry. The research area for the PhD project is physiology and ethology, and either can be more or less emphasised depending on the successful applicant.

Qualifications and specific competences:
Applicants must have a relevant Master’s degree in either animal science or medical science. Due to communication with the research population (e.g. nursing home residents), Danish-speaking applicants will have an advantage.

Place of employment and place of work:
The place of employment is Aarhus University, and the place of work is Research Centre Foulum, Blichers Allé 20, 8830 Tjele, Denmark.

Contacts:
Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:

Senior Researcher Karen Thodberg, Department of Animal Science, mail: Karen.thodberg@anis.au.dk, telephone: +45 87157938

Application procedures

Before you apply

Information and attachments:

Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:

The English language requirement at GSST is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” are documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test, minimum score: 560 (paper-based test) or 83 (internet-based test). The paper-based test must have a “total score”. From the August 2019 call, GSST will no longer accept the paper-based test.
    Aarhus University does not accept the TOEFL ITP test. Aarhus University’s TOEFL code is 8935. Ask the test centre to send your test results to Aarhus University, in order to enable verification of your test results.
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 6.5 points
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate  with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to sphd@psys.au.dk no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or the United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at Aarhus University for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section” Language skills documentation”.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:

1)      Find the application form:
Go to www.phd.scitech.au.dk/for-applicants/apply-here - Note, the online application system opens on 1 September 2019.
Choose November 2019 Call with deadline 1 November 2019 at noon (11.59 AM MET).
You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme 'Animal Science'

2)      Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: "ANIMAL CONTACT – an interdisciplinary project focusing on measuring behavioural, physiological and psychometric responses to contact with dogs"
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3)      Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

Please note that all information in the application must be in Danish or English.

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

  • One reference (template for references)
  • Curriculum vitae,
  • Motivation (max. 1 page)
  • Transcripts, grade point averages (weighted and unweighted), and diploma(s) for both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree
  • Project description (½-4 pages). For technical reasons, you must upload a project description. When - as here - you apply for a specific project, please simply copy the project description above, and upload it as a PDF in the application. If you wish to, you can indicate an URL where further information can be found. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.
  • Documentation of language skills if required.

After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed.

GSST reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made. 
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSST Application Guide.  

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.
  • The project will only be initiated if final funding (from GSST/the faculty) is secured.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.

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