News and Events: Open Positions

Please note that this newsitem has been archived, and may contain outdated information or links.

PhD on Safety in Conversational AI

Deadline: Wednesday 12 April 2023
Faculteit/Dienst: Faculteit der Natuurw., Wiskunde & Informatica
Opleidingsniveau: Master
Functie type: Promotieplaats
Sluitingsdatum: 12 april 2023
Vacaturenummer: 11385

Are you looking for a PhD position where you can contribute to making conversational agents safer? If you are excited about doing this kind of research within a diverse team, then you may want to join us. We are looking for a PhD candidate with knowledge of Natural Language Processing to join the Dialogue Modelling Group led by Raquel Fernández at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of Amsterdam. If you are passionate about doing research that leads to AI systems that are useful for society, we would be happy to have you on board.

What are you going to do?

This PhD position is part of the LESSEN project on “Low Resource Chat-based Conversational Intelligence”, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). You will join a diverse team of researchers based at multiple universities in the Netherlands and be in contact with industrial stakeholders to develop conversational agents. Together, the project partners will develop, implement and evaluate safe and transparent chat-based conversational AI agents based on state-of-the-art neural architectures. In particular, in this PhD project (PhD9) you will develop new methods for preventing the generation of unsafe utterances by conversational agents, with the goal of ensuring that the system’s behaviour does not result in the reinforcement of negative stereotypes or in users feeling excluded. We plan to approach the problem from three related angles: (i) detection: creation of a typology of safety issues relevant to particular stakeholders and detection of potentially unsafe content; (ii) interpretability: developing and applying explainability techniques to identify the causes that led to generating problematic utterances; and (ii) controlled text generation: developing and applying methods to steer utterance generation or retrieval away from unsafe content.

Tasks and responsibilities:

  • complete and defend a PhD thesis within the official appointment duration of four years;

  • regularly present research results at international workshops and conferences, and to publish them in conference proceedings and journals;

  • participate in and contribute to the organisation of research activities and events at the ILLC, such as workshops and colloquia;

  • make a small contribution to the ILLC’s educational mission, by working as a teaching assistant for courses in your area of expertise and by assisting with the supervision of student research projects.

What do you have to offer?

Your experience and profile:

  • A Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, such as computational linguistics, artificial intelligence, or computer science.

  • An excellent academic track record.

  • A serious interest in pursuing fundamental research on NLP for positive impact.

  • Good programming skills and experience with deep learning methods for NLP, ideally including experience with dialogue, language generation and/or interpretability techniques.

  • 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 could be useful but is not required for this position, nor is Dutch language required for being able to live in Amsterdam. However, if you wish, as a PhD candidate at the ILLC you will have the opportunity to attend Dutch language classes.

Our offer

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years). The preferred starting date is as soon as possible and no later than the 1st of September 2023. This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings.

The gross monthly salary, based on 38 hours per week and dependent on relevant experience, ranges between € 2,541 to € 3,247 (scale P). This does not include 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% year-end allowance. The UFO profile PhD Candidate is applicable. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Universities of the Netherlands is applicable.

Besides the salary and a vibrant and challenging environment at Science Park we offer you multiple fringe benefits:

  • 232 holiday hours per year (based on fulltime) and extra holidays between Christmas and 1 January;

  • multiple courses to follow from our Teaching and Learning Centre;

  • a complete educational program for PhD students;

  • multiple courses on topics such as leadership for academic staff;

  • multiple courses on topics such as time management, handling stress and an online learning platform with 100+ different courses;

  • 7 weeks birth leave (partner leave) with 100% salary;

  • partly paid parental leave;

  • the possibility to set up a workplace at home;

  • a pension at ABP for which UvA pays two third part of the contribution;

  • the possibility to follow courses to learn Dutch;

  • help with housing for a studio or small apartment when you’re moving from abroad.

Are you curious to read more about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits, take a look here.

About us

The University of Amsterdam is the Netherlands' largest university, offering the widest range of academic programmes. At the UvA, 30,000 students, 6,000 staff members and 3,000 PhD candidates study and work in a diverse range of fields, connected by a culture of curiosity.

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 8,000, as well as 1,800 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 an interdisciplinary research institute that aims at bringing together insights from various fields concerned with information and information processing, such as computational linguistics, computer science, cognitive science, logic, mathematicians, and philosophy. It offers a friendly international research environment with world-class faculty in all of its areas of specialisation, including Natural Language Processing and AI. We are based in the beautiful city of Amsterdam, renowned for its historic system of canals, its laid-back cosmopolitan atmosphere, and its excellent connections to the rest of Europe and the world.

Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.

Any questions?

Do you have any questions or do you require additional information? Please contact Raquel Fernández (

Job application

If you feel the profile fits you, and you are interested in the job, we look forward to receiving your application. You can apply online via the button below. We accept applications until and including 12 April 2023.

Applications should submit one single PDF file including:

  • a detailed CV, including the names, affiliations, and email addresses of two people we can contact for letters of recommendation;

  • a statement of at most 2 pages where you specify your motivation for your application, why you are a good fit for this position, and how you would like to approach the project;

  • a list of all Master-level courses you have taken, with an official transcript of grades.

Use the ‘CV’ field in the submission form to upload your single PDF application file. Please do not upload a separate document in the ‘Cover Letter’ field (if you do, the selection committee will not consider your application).

Only complete applications following these instructions received within the response period via the link below will be considered.

The interviews will be held in the course of April-May 2023.

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.

If you encounter Error GBB451, reach out to our HR Department directly. They will gladly help you continue your application.

Application form:

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