An innovative and exciting PhD Scholarship opportunity in virtual reality

Why do people decide to drive through floodwater?  Utilizing virtual reality to assess motivations and behaviour associated with driving through floodwater.


The project

An opportunity exists for an enthusiastic, innovative PhD candidate to examine the motivations for a driver’s decision to cross flooded creeks and rivers.  The project will use UNE’s state of the art virtual reality and eye tracking laboratories to experimentally test the factors that might influence the decision to drive into floodwater such as risk perception, gender, vehicle type and experience with flooding.  The project will also examine the protective effects of risk treatments such as warning signs, penalties and safety education.

According to the Royal Surf Life Saving Society over half of the flood-related drowning deaths in rivers between 2003 and 2013 were a result of driving across a flooded bridge, road or causeway.  Other research has examined historical flood fatalities and found that victims were generally males, young adults or children, living in Queensland, Victoria or NSW and more likely to be driving a 4WD.  Given the expected increase in extreme flooding predicted with climate change, designing better risk mitigation and community safety strategies requires understanding of the psychology behind a drivers’ decision to enter floodwater.

The person

The PhD candidate will preferably:

       have research interests in environmental psychology, virtual reality experiments and/or natural hazards and human behaviour;

       hold an Honours (1st or 2A) or equivalent degree in psychology, human geography or other relevant social sciences;driving through

       have some experience working with human research participants; and

       be based on the University of New England campus in Armidale, and start in the second half of 2016.

The scholarship

The PhD student will receive a scholarship of $28,000 per annum for 3.5 years.  The student will be associated with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and have access to industry expertise and support, as well as research funding and technical assistance.

Enquiries and applications

For further information about the project please contact Dr Melissa Parsons (02 6773 3527 or

Applications comprising 1) a cover letter describing research interests and experience against the above criteria, 2) a curriculum vitae (including the details of at least one referee), and 3) an academic transcript should be forwarded by email to by 13 May 2016.