PhD Position in Natural Language Processing
University of Amsterdam Institute for Logic, Language and Computation

PhD Position in Natural Language Processing: Modelling Implicit Bias and Stereotype

Publication date 16 March 2021
Closing date 20 April 2021
Level of education Master's degree
Hours 38 hours per week
Salary indication €2,395 to €3,061 gross per month
Vacancy number 21-174

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) has a PhD position in natural language processing: modelling implicit bias and stereotype.

The PhD position is part of Robert van Rooij’s research project From Learning to Meaning: A new approach to generic sentences and implicit biases, which is funded by NWO, and also involves a postdoctoral position. This PhD position will be jointly supervised by Robert van Rooij and Ekaterina Shutova.

The project overall: generic sentences ('Birds fly’, ‘Sharks are dangerous’) are omnipresent in language and express characterising properties of groups and individual objects. As they communicate (stereo)typical (‘Lawyers are greedy’) and normative (‘Winners never quit’) information, these sentences give voice to and transmit socially prejudiced generalisations and thus can have a high societal impact. Despite their importance, no uniform and empirically adequate account of their meaning yet exists. The goal of the whole project is to develop such an account, by linking their meaning to how we learn to associate characteristic properties of groups or individuals. This is an interdisciplinary project, which is a collaboration between researchers in semantics, natural language processing (NLP) and experimental psychology.

PhD project: the PhD student will work in the area of natural language processing, with the specific focus on computational semantics. The goal of this position is to develop and test models of implicit bias and stereotyping by automatically analysing language use in large textual corpora and social media. The PhD student will develop new computational methods that can uncover generalisations and stereotypes implied in texts and investigate how they are learned by state-of-the-art NLP models. We will experiment with state-of-the-art models for learning meaning representations, based on deep learning, and develop new models incorporating insights from linguistics and psychology.

The methods will be evaluated and fine-tuned by comparing the predicted generalisations with the word-associations found in the Implicit Association Tests (IAT) from social psychology. A more detailed description of the research project can be obtained from the project leader, Robert van Rooij.

What are you going to do?

You will be expected to contribute to the project, described above, and to:

  • complete and defend a PhD thesis within the official appointment duration of four years; 
  • present research results regularly at international workshops and conferences, and to publish them in conference proceedings and journals;
  • participate in and to contribute to the organisation of research activities and events at the Institute, such as workshops and colloquia.

All PhD candidates at the ILLC are furthermore 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.

What do we require?

You have:

  • a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, such as Computational Linguistics, Artificial Intelligence or Theoretical Computer Science;
  • technical skills and the scientific interest to conduct cutting-edge research in natural language processing, and computational semantics in particular
  • an excellent academic track record;
  • experience in natural language processing;
  • 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.

Please note that knowledge of the Dutch language is not required for these positions, 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.

Our offer

We offer a temporary contract for 38 hours 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 contract. 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 applies. 

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits such as our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look at our website.


Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact one of the supervisors:

  • Robert van Rooij, project leader
  • Ekaterina Shutova

About the Faculty of Science and the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation

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 Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) is an interdisciplinary research institute at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) 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, natural language processing, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, music cognition, and philosophy.

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.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 20 April 2021. You can apply online by using the link below.

Applications (in one single .pdf file, using your surname as the file name) should include:

  • a cover letter, including a description of your research interests and accomplishments, as well as an explanation for why you are applying for this position (at most two pages);
  • a detailed curriculum vitae (CV);
  • a list of all Master-level modules you have taken, with an official transcript of grades;
  • a link to a writing sample available online, such as a Master’s thesis, a term paper, or a publication (in case of joint authorship, please clearly indicate your own contribution);
  • the names, affiliations, and email addresses of two or (at most) three people we can contact for letters of reference for you.

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

Only applications that conform to these instructions are ensured full consideration by the search committee. In particular, please do not submit more than one file.

Apply now

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