Dr Vania Dimitrova


My background is in Mathematics (BS, MSc, Bulgaria) and applied Artificial Intelligence (PhD, Leeds University). I lead research activity on user-aware intelligent systems, focusing on knowledge-enriched user modelling and adaptation, knowledge capture, ontological modelling and information exploration. I chaired the premier international conferences on user modelling (UMAP) and intelligent learning environments (AIED, ECTEL), as well as a series of international workshops on key topics related to user modelling, social systems, intelligent exploration. I was an associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies (IEEE-TLT) and am currently a member of the editorial boards for the personalisation journal (UMUAI) and the Int. Journal on AI in Education (IJAIED). I am regularly invited as a reviewer for the European Commission ICT programme, and have served on the advisory board for the UK programme in technology-enhanced learning.

I have led the Leeds research activities in several interdisciplinary projects, and coordinated the recently completed EU project ImREAL which developed intelligent services to link experience in virtual learning environments with experience in the real world. Currently, I am involved in research projects on developing decision support systems by combining machine learning and semantics - for tunnel diagnosis (within the EU NETTUN project, with SNCF) and for integrated inter-asset management (within the EPSRC project Assessing The Underworld, with civil engineers). I am also involved in a series of research activities exploring new bread of learning environments that integrate mentor-like features, e.g. project on intelligent career advisors (with researchers from Birkbeck College, University of London) and self-regulated learning (with researchers from the universities of Canterbury and Adelaide).


  • Artificial Intelligence programme manager
  • Director of Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy, Leeds Institute of Medical Education
  • Co-director of the Research Centre in Digital Learning

Research interests

My research is on user-aware intelligent systems which augment human intellect by assisting humans to perform complex tasks (focus on decision making and sensemaking) or to learn new skills (focus on soft skills and reflexive learning). This crosses several fields - personalisation and user-adaptive systems, intelligent decision support systems, and intelligent learning environments.

Research streams:

  • Knowledge capture - ontological modelling and capturing tacit knowledge; my recent work focuses on combining ontologies and machine learning for knowledge capture in ill-defined domains (decision making, sensemaking, advising/mentoring). Areas of application: urban infrastructures, learning.
  • User and group/community modelling – unique work on interactive user modelling and community modelling; my recent work focuses on modelling collectives and exploring diversity (e.g. age, experience, status, culture). Areas of application: knowledge sharing, learning.
  • Interactive information exploration – interactive exploration of semantic data; my recent work develops mechanisms for semantic nudges taking into account the user profile and the interaction utility (e.g. increase knowledge, stimulate curiosity, inspire). Areas of application: learning, decision making, exploratory search.


  • BSc/MSc in Mathematics
  • PhD in Applied Artificial Intelligence

Professional memberships

  • User Modelling Inc
  • International Artificial Intelligence in Education Society
  • ECTEL steering committee

Student education

I currently teach:

  • 2nd year undergraduate module on Artificial Intelligence which provides an introduction to a broad range of techniques used in third year specialist modules.
  • 3rd year undergraduate module on Knowledge Enriched Information Systems which provides an introduction to the latest research advancements in knowledge technologies and their applications to augment information systems in modern digital economy contexts.
  • MSc module on Semantic Technologies and Applications which covers key Semantic Web concepts and applications in representative domains.

I regularly supervise undergraduate and masters students whose projects relate to the research streams listed above.

In the past, I have taught: Modelling, Analysis and Algorithm Design (undergraduate), Personalisation and User-Adaptive Systems (undergraduate), Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction (undergraduate), Introduction to Programming - fast track (undergraduate), Collaboration, Visualisation, Interaction (Master).

Research groups and institutes

  • Artificial Intelligence

Postgraduate research opportunities

We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study.

Projects currently available: