News and Events: Open Positions

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PhD position in Modelling Artificial Language Learning

The Faculty of Science occupies a leading position internationally in its fields of research and participates in a large number of cooperative programmes with universities, research institutes and businesses. The faculty has a student body of around 4,000 and 1,500 members of staff, spread over eight research institutes and a number of faculty-wide support services. A considerable part of the research is made possible by external funding from Dutch and international organisations and the private sector. The Faculty of Science offers eleven Bachelor's degree programmes and nineteen Master's degree programmes in the fields of the exact sciences, computer science and information studies, and life and earth sciences.

Since September 2010, the whole faculty has been housed in a brand new building at the Science Park in Amsterdam. Science Park Amsterdam is now one of the largest centers of academic research in the Netherlands.

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation is a research institute at the University of Amsterdam, 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, cognitive science, artificial intelligence and philosophy. Research is organized in three research groups: Logic and Computation (LoCo), Logic and Language (LoLa) and Language and Computation (LaCo), and the institute has chosen two key, overarching research themes: Logic & Game Theory and Cognitive Modelling.

PhD position

38 hours per week
vacancy number: W12-120

This position is part of Segments & Rules, a project of the University of Amsterdam and Leiden University funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), division Humanities.


You will be one of three PhD students in a multidisciplinary team consisting of biologists, linguists and computer modellers. In the project, we investigate which aspects of the cognitive abilities of humans underlying language are unique among animals. We adopt the artificial language learning paradigm and study both experimentally and theoretically similarities and differences in the pattern recognition and learning abilities of human infants, human adults and non-human animals, in particular songbirds (zebra finches). Together, the three PhD-projects will test how factors such as perceptual biases, computational constraints, memory limitations, etc. influence successful learning.

In this specific PhD-project you will develop computational and mathematical models of artificial language learning, and try to account for the experimental data obtained by psychologists, linguists and biologists. Much of the data you will work with will come from the two other PhD-projects - involving experiments with zebrafinches and human infants - that run parallel to yours. From the start you will also be involved in helping to design these experiments, and in analysing the data. Further tasks include writing articles on your findings and helping to organise an international conference on the topic. The project should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis) to be defended at the University of Amsterdam.


The candidate should have a Master's degree in artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, mathematical psychology or equivalent, strong computation skills combined with a real interest in experimental data. You should preferably have experience in computational modelling of cognitive processes and/or Bayesian data modelling. You must be proficient in spoken and written English, have good communication skills and a strong interest in a scientific career.


The PhD student will join the group of Dr Willem Zuidema, in the Language & Computation section of the ILLC. The student will be collaborating closely with the other participants in the project, from the Institute of Biology Leiden (Prof. Dr. Carel ten Cate) and the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition Babylab at Leiden University (Dr. Claartje Levelt).

Further information

For further information, see the project page at or contact Dr Willem Zuidema at .


The full-time appointment will be on a temporary basis for a maximum period of four years (18 months plus a further 30 months after a positive evaluation) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). An educational plan will be drafted that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings.

The gross monthly salary will range from 2042 Euro in the first year to 2612 Euro in the final year, according to the Dutch salary scales for PhD students. The collective employment agreement (CAO) of Dutch universities is applicable. The successful applicant will be working under the daily supervision of Dr. W. Zuidema. The main focus of the appointment is on research, but will include moderate teaching duties in subjects relevant to the candidate's research activities. The preferred starting date is 1 September 2012.

Job application

Applications should be electronic and include a curriculum vitae, a letter of motivation (at most 2 pages) explaining your research interests and why you are interested in this specific position, a list of all university courses taken, including grades, and the name and contact details (including email addresses) of two referees who can provide details about your profile.

Applications should be sent to:

Applications should be emailed to '', stating the vacancy number in the subject line and relevant documents as attachments (a separate pdf-file per document, with a self-explanatory name, is preferred). Deadline for applications is Sunday June 17th 2012, 23h59 (CEST). Interviews with shortlisted candidates are planned for June 21st and 22nd.

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