Do you care about creating intelligent systems that connect people to information that’s useful and reliable? We are looking for three PhD students who are interested in conducting research into conversational search systems that help users discover consumer services (news, music, games, apps, etc). The research will take place in the DReaMS Lab, a collaboration between the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam, and the Huawei Consumer Business Group. Our philosophy is to support consumer exploration and discovery using machine intelligence in ways that are humane and safe.

The three positions that we are offering focus on three different aspects of multi-modal conversational search:

Position 1: User intent modeling and prediction
How can we help machines develop an understanding of a user’s multi-modal intent? Can we learn rich preference, task, and context representations for this purpose?

Position 2: Online evaluation from conversational user interactions
How should a conversational assess its own success or failure while offering users multi-modal content from a range of sources based on mobile or voice-based interaction signals?

Position 3: Unbiased learning to rank from conversational interactions
How can a conversational system learn from past interactions with users so as to inform its future actions? What types of presentation bias emerge in a conversational setting and how can we correct for this?

We strongly encourage applications coming from a unique perspective. Don’t just send us your CV but tell us how your background fits with the position of your choice and with the aims of the lab.

What are you going to do?

You are expected to:

  • create, evaluate and describe novel algorithms and architectures for conversational search and complex question answering;
  • integrate and evaluate such algorithms in experimental scenarios, with a focus on multi-modal consumer services;
  • present research results at national and international conferences, workshops and journals;
  • become an active member of the research community and to collaborate with other researchers, both within and outside the Informatics Institute;
  • pursue and complete a PhD thesis within the appointed duration of four years;
  • assist in teaching activities, such as teaching labs and tutorials or supervising bachelor and master students.

What do we require?

  • A Master’s degree in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, or a closely related field;
  • a thorough understanding of both information retrieval and machine learning;
  • an interest in algorithm development and in their implications for people impacted by those algorithms;
  • solid programming skills and experience in Python and machine learning frameworks;
  • the ability to work in multidisciplinary teams;
  • a good knowledge of English (written and spoken);
  • knowledge of an European language other than English. This is not required but very helpful as we will be working with multiple European languages.

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). This 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 €2,395 to €3,061 (scale P) gross per month, based on a full-time contractof 38 hours a week. This is 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 and the Informatics Institute

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, 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 mission of the Informatics Institute is to perform curiosity-driven and use-inspired fundamental research in Computer Science. The main research themes are Artificial Intelligence, Computational Science and Systems and Network Engineering. Our research involves complex information systems at large, with a focus on collaborative, data driven, computational and intelligent systems, all with a strong interactive component.


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.

The Informatics Institute strives for a better gender balance in its staff. We therefore strongly encourage women to apply for this position.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 30 November 2020. You may apply online by using the link below.

Applications should include:

  • a motivation letter that explicitly indicates for which of the three positions you’re applying and that explains your reasons for applying to that particular position;
  • a cv, including a list of publications and open source projects if applicable;
  • a complete record of your Bachelor and Master courses, included grades and explanation of the grading system;
  • the names and contact addresses of at least two academic references (please do not include reference letters);
  • a link to or copy of your master thesis.

Please mention the months (not just years) in your CV when referring to your education and work experience.

Applications without motivation letter will not be considered. We will invite potential candidates for interviews during the second and third week of December 2020.

No agencies please

Apply now

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