Research Assistant (PhD position) in Digital Mental Health

WorkplaceZurich, Zurich region, Switzerland


Research Assistant (PhD position) in Digital Mental Health

ETH Zurich is one of the leading universities of the world with a strong focus on science and engineering. In 2010 it established the Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) in collaboration with the National Research Foundation (NRF) to do interdisciplinary research on pressing problems.

In collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS) , the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Duke - NUS, the National Health Group (NHG), National University Health System (NUHS), and SingHealth, SEC is undertaking a research program on "Future Health Technologies FHT ". It addresses some immanent health challenges by developing a future-oriented Mobile Digital Health Concept that tackles the increase in patients suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and stroke, as a consequence of a rapidly ageing population with mobile digital technologies, covering the value chain from acute care to patient’s private homes. Within this framework we are announcing the following job opening.

Project background

The burden of mental disorders continues to grow with significant impacts on health and major social, human rights, and economic consequences in all countries of the world (WHO Fact Sheet 2019). It is thus of utmost importance to develop preventive interventions that address this significant societal problem. FHT’s Mobile Health Interventions module investigates how mobile chatbot technology can be leveraged to assist individuals in preventing depression from a public health perspective. Accordingly, chatbots can act as scalable mental health coaches that guide individuals with subclinical depression, i.e. a condition in which a person has depressive symptoms but does not meet the criteria for a depressive disorder, through a personalized digital mental health intervention.

Job description

As a Research Assistant in Digital Mental Health, you will conduct digital mental health research to help identify the best chatbot-delivered intervention components to prevent depression. You will closely collaborate with our research partners from the Health Services and Outcomes Research Programme at Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), while working with various individuals with subclinical depression, such as students or employees, to develop an effective mobile coaching service.

Together with a team of a supervising postdoctoral researcher and doctoral students (with a background in health psychology, behavioral medicine, and technology management) and software engineers, you will design and implement a conceptual model for a smartphone-based and chatbot-delivered intervention, and conduct a pilot study in Year 1. Moreover, you will conduct optimization trials in Year 2, and a pilot randomized controlled trial in the last two years. All trials must consider key findings from implementation science so that the resulting digital coaching service can be easily adopted by the Singaporean healthcare system (e.g., Health Promotion Board, National Parks Board, hospitals and poly clinics, health insurer) or (business) organizations (e.g., universities, digital health start-ups).

You will also undertake promotional activities to increase community awareness of the coaching service through conferences, workshops, seminars, and social media engagement, while also conducting evaluations and preparing study protocols and written publications for high quality, peer-reviewed journals. You will also present results at local and national scientific meetings and develop grant applications for research funding.

This is a unique opportunity to build your research profile, supporting a high-quality, government-funded project. Amongst the many benefits associated with working at SEC and pursuing your doctoral studies, you will also receive formal and informal professional development and mentoring. You will also supervise Master and Bachelor students while making a real-world impact on mental health services for vulnerable individuals in Singapore.

The preferred start date is July 1st, 2020. Candidates will be screened on a continuous basis until the position has been filled.

Please note that the employment will be at the Singapore-ETH Centre and local working regulations will apply. Workplace is Singapore.

Your profile

Successful candidates have a strong interest and expertise in digital health interventions, preferably in the fields of subclinical depression, chronic stress, behavioral medicine, and conversational agents. Candidates are also required to have a Master’s degree, as well as experience in public health interventions, computer science, technology management, and they are familiar with the ethical, legal, and health-political challenges of medical research. Essential qualifications for this position are excellent communication skills in English, positive experiences with interdisciplinary collaborations, a sense for pursuing overreaching goals, and the capacity to work with local, national, and international researchers, clinicians, digital health entrepreneurs, and the Singaporean healthcare industry.

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.


We look forward to receiving your online application including the following documents:

  • Cover letter outlining your motivation and experience in the fields of digital health interventions, mental disorders, depression, behavioral medicine, conversational agents, and in project management
  • List of publications (including qualifying theses and / or "under review" and "work-in-progress" manuscripts)
  • Certificates (e.g. Master’s and Bachelor’s degree)
  • Transcript of records

For further information about our research and projects, please visit More information about the Mobile Health Intervention Module of the FHT programme is available here: . Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Dr. Tobias Kowatsch, Scientific Director of the Center for Digital Health Interventions (ETH Zurich & University of St.Gallen) and Assistant Professor for Digital Health, University of St.Gallen, by email tkowatsch [at] ethz[.]ch (no applications).

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.


In your application, please refer to and reference JobID 47036.

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