The HDR Architecture PhD Research Scholarship investigating: Applying Evolutionary Game Theory to Understand Socio-political Conflicts in Urban Ecologies

HDR has generously committed to award a PhD Scholarship in the application of evolutionary game theory at UNSW Built Environment investigating the following research keywords: Evolutionary Game Theory, Virtual Reality, Crowdsourcing, Gaming Environments. The Scholarship has a value of $122,500 over 3.5 years.

HDR’s expertise across architecture, engineering, research and data-driven design brings a depth of knowledge and innovative solutions to each of their projects. For more than a century, HDR has partnered with clients to shape communities and push boundaries across more than 200 locations worldwide. With offices in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, HDR provides a wide range of services throughout Australia, across several sectors including health, education, science, technology, commercial and defence. HDR’s longstanding relationship with UNSW has included previous as well as ongoing work on the Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering Building, the award-winning Materials Science & Engineering Building, and Science & Engineering Building.

Research field description

  • Aims and Research Background

The application of evolutionary game theory (EGT) explains ritualised behavior within fields of theoretical biology, mathematics and economics. EGT has existed and evolved since the early 1970’s. While the application of EGT is expanding to many different fields of study, the traditional AEC (Architecture / Engineering / Construction) industry has not embraced this research and theory and its possible impact on the definition and design of urban environments. Additionally, in the last years not only Evolutionary Game Theory but also Virtual Reality, Crowdsourcing and Gaming Environments have made significant progress and have found their way into the AEC industry. Consequently, the PhD research application should consider these fields as well.

  • Research objectives

Using gaming media to develop a non-unified framework for design, the PhD applicant is expected to apply EGT into a thesis proposal to understand ritualistic individual behavior within communities, predict outcomes and optimize planning within urban environments when social and political ideologies antagonize one another. Evolutionary game theory does not require all players to act rationally; players are expected to operate with strategies in mind, resulting in a model that tests the viability of strategies and promotes strategies that are more fit than their competitors using Population, Game and Replicator Dynamics.

  • Research framework

The PhD operates as an embedded project-based PhD. An embedded project-based PhD is defined via two main characteristics. One, the research problem and its context comes out of a practice context. Consequently, the PhD research needs to be embedded into the firm to understand the problem field in order to contribute to knowledge, both in an academic context as well as a practice context. The research is in partnership with HDR’s Sydney office and the successful application will be embedded in the HDR office in Sydney to investigate and test his/her research hypothesis on existing and planned projects at HDR. Here direct work on project can assist with the second main characteristic, certain projects in the office can help to define the field of enquiry further (providing research background that leads to research question and research objectives) but projects also can help in underpinning the argument made in the thesis. Hence there is a link between the theoretical argument and the practice component, both help to position the PhD thesis better in the context of work by others and to demonstrate the significance. At this stage projects are not yet defined and will be subject to the specific topic of the PhD applicants proposed investigation within Evolutionary Game Theory, Virtual Reality, Crowdsourcing, and Gaming Environments.


To apply

PhD applicants should follow the application process as detailed here. That process includes the submission of an Expression of Interest (EOI), which will be considered by the faculty’s Higher Degree Committee. 

PhD applicants should write a separate 1000 word statement clearly summarising the proposed topic area, a suggested methodology, a preliminary title and the contribution of the research to new knowledge within the field of enquiry listed above.

PhD applicants should submit their statement to Associate Professor Hank Haeusler, Discipline Director, Bachelor of Computational Design, School of Architecture and Design.

Please include “HDR PhD Research Scholarship” in the subject line of the email.

Deadline for submission:  For enrolment in Session 1 2019, you must provide your EOI by 30 October 2018.



Awards are made on the basis of academic merit, research experience and/or research potential, as well as suitability of the applicant’s research proposal to the purpose of the HDR PhD Research Scholarship. The candidate must: 

  • Undertake, or be undertaking a research project as agreed between the Built Environment Higher Degree Committee and the candidate; 
  • Be supervised by appropriate staff employed within the Built Environment Faculty at UNSW;
  • Have applied for admission or commenced the faculty’s EOI process for admission to a UNSW Doctor of Philosophy at UNSW Built Environment.
  • Have had at least three years professional experience in a built environment discipline
  • Have interest in a research and/or academic career in one or more of the following, in order of importance:
    • Evolutionary game theory
    • Gaming Environments
    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Crowdsourcing
    • Virtual Reality


Technology background and foundational software required on an advanced level by applicant

Applicants must have demonstrable knowledge and experience in Game Engines (i.e. Unity), Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, 3D Modeling. Further applicants must have on an advanced level experience in the following software packages: 3D Modeling (i.e. Rhino, Unity), Visual Programming (i.e. Grasshopper, Dynamo), Programming Languages (i.e. Python or C#); Optimization (i.e. Galapagos, Octopus, Quelea, etc.)


The scholarship is available to both domestic and international students.

Selection process

All EOI applications are reviewed by UNSW Built Environment’s Higher Degree Committee in the first instance.

Applications accepted for PhD candidature will then be considered by the selection panel including Dean, UNSW Built Environment, Associate Dean Research and Director Postgraduate Research.  

The panel will decide if an award is to be made. 

Unsuccessful scholarship applicants are still welcome to proceed with their PhD candidature and seek other support if necessary.

 Announcement of award

The successful applicant will be announced in December 2018.



Associate Professor Hank Haeusler,

Discipline Director

Phone +61 2 9385 4841