Postdoctoral Researcher in Reinforcement Learning With Structured Data
University of Amsterdam Informatics Institute

PhD Student or Postdoctoral Researcher on Reinforcement Learning With Structured Data

Publication date 12 June 2020

Closing date 30 June 2020

Level of education PhD

Hours 38 hours per week

Salary indication €2,395 to €4,402 gross per month

Vacancy number 20-345

Are you not afraid to apply (deep) reinforcement learning techniques on a mix of structured and unstructured data? We are looking for a PhD student or postdoctoral researcher interested in performing research on developing (deep) reinforcement learning techniques that can take structured data such as graphs, sequences, and lists as input or output data.

In the application domain of providing recommendations to users, input data is often strongly structured and multi-modal (knowledge graphs describing uses and items, complex interaction histories of the users, etcetera). Instead of providing a single or multiple recommendations, we might also want to give a more structured output, think of a list of articles that can be read in order to understand a complex topic, or a conditional plan: try reading X, but if it's too complex, go for Y instead. In this position, your challenge will be to develop architectures and algorithms for neural models that allow taking in structured and multi-modal information such as user context, text, and a knowledge graph, and output structured recommendations; optimising such models from trial-and-error using reinforcement learning techniques.

The research will take place within the Discovery lab. This lab is a collaboration between the University of Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Elsevier. Our philosophy is to drive scientific discovery using machine intelligence. Our goal is to study and develop technology, infrastructure and methods to support the current transformation of science, specifically regarding data-driven activity, where scientists increasingly rely on intelligent tooling for searching and reading scientific literature, to formulate hypotheses, and to interpret data.

In this lab PhD candidates can conduct academic research at the university, and apply their findings with real world data and systems. This particular position is associated with the Amsterdam Machine Learning Lab (AMLAB). The Discovery Lab is also closely integrated with the INtelligent Data Engineering Lab (INDE Lab), the information and language processing systems group (ILPS) and the Knowledge Representation and Reasoning group. We are also embedded within the Amsterdam data science and artificial intelligence ecosystem and value practice-informed and interdisciplinary research and outreach. 

We strongly encourage applications coming from a unique perspective. Tell us how your background fits with the aims of the lab. We are also hiring for several other positions in the lab. See our website for other positions available in the lab.

What are you going to do?

You are expected to:

  • invent, evaluate and describe novel architectures and algorithms for (deep) reinforcement learning with structured data;
  • integrate and evaluate such algorithms in experimental scenarios, including applications in recommender systems;
  • present research results at 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 and the Discovery Lab.

PhD Students are additionally expected to:

  • 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;
  • spend about 40% of your time working on you PhD thesis from the Discovery lab space at the Elsevier office in Amsterdam.

Postdoctoral researchers are additionally expected to:

  • show independence in achieving research goals and collaborating with PhD students and researchers;
  • contribute to teaching activities, such as lectures, lab courses, or supervising bachelor and master students.

What do we require?

  • A Master’s degree in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, or a closely related field;
  • a strong scientific and mathematical background in artificial intelligence. Familiarity and interests with reinforcement learning is preferable;
  • a good academic record and eagerness to tackle complex scientific problems;
  • strong programming skills, e.g. in Python, Java, Scala, C++. Preferably, you have experience with Python deep learning toolboxes;
  • able to work well in teams and communicate fluently in written and spoken English.

Postdoctoral researchers are additionally required to:

  • possess a PhD degree in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, or a closely related field;
  • be able to invent and evaluate novel algorithm, and present these orally and in writing;
  • have a record of publishing in relevant high-quality conferences or journals in the above fields.

Our offer

For candidates for the PhD student position:

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 18 months. After a satisfactory evaluation the contract will be extended by 30 months and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). You will get a customized Training and Supervision Plan, that will be evaluated every year. The salary will be €2,395-€3,061 gross per month, based on full-time employment (38 hours a week).

For candidates for the postdoctoral researcher position:

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 36 months.The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,790-€4,402 gross per month, based on full-time employment (38 hours a week).

The salary 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 6,500, 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:

  • Dr Herke van Hoof, Assistant professor 

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 CV and cover letter by June 30th. You can apply online by using the link below.

Applications should include:

  • a motivation letter that explains the reasons for applying to the position;
  • a curriculum vitae, including a list of publications 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 or copy of your master thesis (PhD thesis if applicable). If you don’t have a thesis (yet), another writing sample (e.g. research project paper) could be added instead.

We will invite potential candidates for interviews (possibly through Skype) at the end of July. #LI-DNP

No agencies please

Apply now

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