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PhD candidate for automatic detection of implicit generic beliefs in corpora

Deadline: Friday 28 February 2020
PhD candidate for automatic detection of implicit generic beliefs in corpora
Publication date 5 February 2020
Closing date 10 March 2020
Level of education Master's degree
Hours 38 hours per week
Salary indication €2,325 to €2,972 gross per month
Vacancy number 20-072

The PhD position is part of Robert van Rooij’s research project From Learning to Meaning: A new approach to generic sentences and implicit biases, which is funded by NWO, and also involves a post-doc position. This PhD position will be jointly supervised by Robert van Rooij and Ekaterina Shutova. 

Generic sentences (‘Birds fly’, ‘Sharks are dangerous’) are omnipresent in language and express characterising properties of groups and individual objects. As they communicate (stereo)typical (‘Lawyers are greedy’) and normative (‘Winners never quit’) information, these sentences give voice to and transmit socially prejudiced generalisations and can have a huge societal impact. Despite their importance, no uniform and empirically adequate theory for their meaning yet exists. The goal of the whole project is to develop such a theory, by linking their meaning to how we learn to associate characteristic properties of groups or individuals. This is an interdisciplinary project, which is a collaboration between researchers in semantics, natural language processing (NLP) and experimental psychology.

The PhD student will work in the area of natural language processing, with the specific focus on computational semantics. The goal of this position is to develop and test semantic theories for the processing of generic sentences by automatically analysing language use in large textual corpora. The PhD student will develop new computational methods that can uncover believed generalisations, stereotypes and implicit biases behind the meaning of generic sentences, by modelling human associations between concepts in large corpora and social media. We will experiment with state-of-the-art NLP models for learning meaning representations, based on deep learning, and develop new models incorporating insights from linguistics and psychology.

The methods will be evaluated and fine-tuned by comparing the predicted generalisations with the word-associations found in the Implicit Association Tests (IAT) from social psychology. This method will not only reveal which generic sentences we (implicitly) accept, but also expose where and to what extent our language use is (implicitly) biased. A more detailed description of the research project can be obtained from the project leader, Robert van Rooij.

What are you going to do?

You will be expected to contribute to the project, described above, and:

  • to complete and defend a PhD thesis within the official appointment duration of four years; 
  • to regularly present research results at international workshops and conferences, and to publish them in conference proceedings and journals;
  • to participate in and to contribute to the organisation of research activities and events at the Institute, such as workshops and colloquia.

All PhD candidates at the ILLC are furthermore expected to make a small contribution to the institute’s educational mission, e.g., by working as teaching assistants for courses in their area of expertise and by assisting with the supervision of student research projects.

What do we require?

  • A Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, such as Computational Linguistics, Artificial Intelligence or Theoretical Computer Science;
  • technical skills and the scientific interest to conduct cutting-edge research in natural language processing, and computational semantics in particular;
  • an excellent academic track record;
  • experience in natural language processing;
  • a serious interest in pursuing fundamental research;
  • good writing and presentation skills;
  • good social and organisational skills;
  • full professional proficiency in spoken and written English.

Please note that knowledge of the Dutch language is not required for these positions, nor is it required for being able to live in Amsterdam. However, PhD candidates at the ILLC have the opportunity to attend Dutch language classes if they wish.

Our offer

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (initial appointment will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students. 

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,325 to €2,972 (scale P) gross per month, based on full-time employmnt (38 hours a week). These amounts ar exclusive 8 % holiday allowance and 8,3 end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Then find out more about working at the Faculty of Science.

About the Faculty of Science

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 6,500, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) is a research institute at the UvA in which researchers from the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Humanities collaborate. Its central research area is the study of fundamental principles of encoding, transmission and comprehension of information. Research at ILLC is interdisciplinary, and aims at bringing together insights from various disciplines concerned with information and information processing, such as logic, mathematics, computer science, linguistics, natural language processing, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, music cognition, and philosophy.


Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact:

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your CV and cover letter by 10 March 2020. You may apply online by using the link below.

Your application should include the following information (in one single PDF file):

  • a cover letter, including a description of your research interests and an explanation for why you are applying for this position (at most two pages);
  • a detailed curriculum vitae (CV);
  • a list of all Master-level modules you have taken, with an official transcript of grades;
  • a link to a writing sample available online, such as a Master’s thesis, a term paper, or a publication (in case of joint authorship, please clearly indicate your own contribution);
  • the names, affiliations, and email addresses of two or (at most) three people we can contact for letters of reference for you.

Only applications that conform to these instructions are ensured full consideration by the search committee. In particular, please do not submit more than one file. #LI-DNP

Apply now

Please note that this newsitem has been archived, and may contain outdated information or links.