PhD position in Machine Translation

Amsterdam, Netherlands
€2,266 to €2,897 gross per month
12 Oct 2018
End of advertisement period
19 Oct 2018
Contract Type
Full Time

Faculty of Science – Institute for Logic, Language and Computation

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam invites applications for a fully funded four-year PhD position within the H2020 project ‘Global Under-Resourced Media Translation’ (GoURMET).

The ILLC is an interdisciplinary research institute where logicians, mathematicians, computer scientists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers collaborate. It offers an international research environment with world-class faculty in all of its areas of specialisation. The institute is located in the beautiful city of Amsterdam, renown for its historic system of canals, its laid-back cosmopolitan atmosphere, and its excellent connections to the rest of Europe and the world.

Project and Job Description

In this project your role is to develop deep generative models for machine translation of under-resourced languages and domains. The overall aim of the project is to develop data efficient NMT by generative modelling and induction of latent structure (both continuous and discrete). A central theme of the project is therefore approximate inference and efficient gradient estimation for modelling highly structured data.

The successful applicant will work under the supervision of Dr Wilker Aziz whose research agenda is dedicated to better NLP by probabilistic modelling with strong statistical assumptions. This agenda is heavily based on approximate inference techniques for latent variable models and includes applications such as machine translation, word representation, paraphrasing, and question answering.

You will be asked to perform the following tasks:

  • 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 ILLC, such as workshops and colloquia.

All PhD candidates at the ILLC furthermore are 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.

This PhD position will be embedded in the ILLC's PhD Programme, which offers training in a range of transferable skills that are relevant for a successful career, in research or elsewhere.


You should hold, or expect to obtain before the start of your appointment, a Master's degree in a relevant discipline, such as Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Statistics, Mathematics, or Logic. Candidates with an interdisciplinary background are particularly encouraged to apply. You should furthermore possess:

  • an excellent academic track record;
  • 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.

We are particularly interested in candidates who have already had some exposure to:

Bayesian statistics;

  • supervised learning for natural language processing, and in particular, neural machine translation;
  • unsupervised and/or semi-supervised learning (possibly outside natural language processing);
  • exact inference for models such as HMMs and CRFs;
  • optimisation techniques (e.g. coordinate ascent, gradient-based optimisation, dual decomposition);
  • approximate inference (e.g. MCMC, variational inference, expectation propagation);
  • variational inference in the context of neural network models.

Please note that knowledge of the Dutch language is not required for this position, 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.

Further Information

Should you have specific questions regarding this position or the application procedure, you are very welcome to contact Wilker Aziz for further information.


You will be employed by the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam on a fixed-term full-time position (38 hours per week).

The appointment is intended to be for a period of four years. The initial contract will be for 18 months. This will be extended with a further 30 months after a positive evaluation.

The gross monthly salary amounts to €2,266 during the first year, rising to €2,897 during the fourth year, and will be supplemented with an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% annual allowance. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities applies.

Starting date: 1 January 2019 or soon thereafter.


The UvA is an equal opportunity employer. We celebrate diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees. The ILLC strives for a better gender balance in its staff. We therefore strongly encourage women to apply for this position.

Your application should include the following information (in one single PDF file, using your surname as the file name):

  • 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;
  • a list of all Master-level modules you have taken, with an official transcript of grades;
  • a link to your Master’s thesis;
  • a writing sample available online, such as a term paper, or a publication (pre-prints are also acceptable, in which case please do indicate whether your manuscript is currently under review);
  • the names, affiliations, and email addresses of two people we can contact for letters of reference for you.

Applications must be submitted no later than 19 October 2018 using the link below. You only need to fill in the fields marked as mandatory. Please use the mandatory CV field to upload the PDF file specified above. Please quote vacancy number 18-581 in your cover letter. Only complete applications that have been submitted in this manner will be considered.

No agencies please