Come and learn me how to talk and think !! 2 Phd’s positions available

Piek Vossen & Leolani, VU Amsterdam. Fotocredit: Daan Muller.

Make robots talk! There is a lot of talk about robots taking part in our lives but there is little known about how to learn robots talk to us about the world we share. The Spinoza-project Understanding-Language-By-Machines looks for two ambitious, highly-motivated PhD students that want to work on our robot project Leolani. Leolani uses communication to learn about us and the world but she also needs to learn our language at the same time. Communicating and reasoning over the physical world and the people she encounters is a real challenge

If you want to take on this challenge and be part of an exciting team working on the forefront of communicating machines, please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

FTE: 0.8 – 1.0


You will define your own research topic within the Leolani framework and become part of the team of researchers that further develops the platform. Your topic may focus on the reasoning and the communication, taking a language understanding or a language generation perspective.

Your duties

  • Define your research topic within the framework
  • Carry out your research according to international standards
  • Publish at least one article per year in an A or B ranked journal or conference proceedings
  • Make your research and experiments publicly available and reproducible


  • Masters degree in (Computational) Linguistics, Computer Science or Artificial Intelligence
  • Knowledge of and experience with programming in Python
  • Knowledge of and experience with Natural Language Processing


A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,325 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years (or 5 years in case of a 0.8fte contract). Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus,
  • contribution to commuting expenses,
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package,
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge.


The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. And to be a university where personal education and societal involvement play a leading role. Where people from different disciplines and backgrounds work together on innovations and on generating new knowledge. Our teaching and research embrace the whole spectrum of science – from the humanities, the social sciences and the pure sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 24,500 students. We employ more than 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible, located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

Diversity is one of our university’s core values. We are an inclusive community, and we believe that diversity and international activities enhance the quality of education and research. We are always looking for people who can enhance diversity on our campus thanks to their background and experience.

Faculty of Humanities
The Faculty of Humanities links a number of fields of study: Language, Literature and Communication, Art & Culture, History, Antiquities and Philosophy. Our teaching and research focus on current societal and scientific themes: from artificial intelligence to visual culture, from urbanization to the history of slavery, from ‘fake news’ in journalism to communication in organizations. We strive to ensure small group sizes. Innovative education and interdisciplinary research are our hallmarks.

Working at the Faculty of Humanities means making a real contribution to the quality of leading education and research in an inspiring and personal work and study climate. We employ more than 250 staff members, and we are home to around 1,300 students.

About the department, institute, project
The Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab(CLTL) is one of the world’s leading research groups in Human Language technology. Prof. dr. Piek Vossen, recipient of the NWO Spinoza Prize, heads the group of international researchers that are working on ground-breaking projects, among which the Spinoza project ‘Understanding Language by Machines’. 

CLTL and the research you are involved in is also embedded in the VU-gravity project on Hybrid Intellegence. You will collaborate with many researchers on key notions such as collaborative, explainable, adaptable and responsible AI. 


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 07/11/2019, 23:59.  In your application letter, describe breifly your ideas about the research you want to do and the methods you are going to use.

The job interviews are planned for December 2019, when possible please take them into account when applying for the position.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Piek Vossen
Position: Professor