Phd position for Robot Communication evoking Affective Bonding

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Phd position for Robot Communication evoking Affective Bonding
  • University Graduate
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

Job description

You will build  and investigate computational robot models that dynamically personalise  communication to make it more efficient and to improve affective bonding of people with robots.

Your duties
  • create and test adaptive communication models for robots within social contexts
  • carry out your research according to international standards resulting in a PhD dissertation and at least one publication per year in an A or B ranked journal or conference proceedings
  • make your research and experiments publicly available and reproducible


  • master 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

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts to €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 to a total duration of 4 years (or 5 years in case of a 0.8 fte 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

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

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
There is a lot of talk about robots taking part in our lives but little is known about how to build robots that can talk to us to create a social bond and to become friends. The NWO project "Communicating with and Relating to Social Robots" is looking for an ambitious and highly-motivated PhD student that wants to work on our robot project. Our robot uses communication to learn about ourselves and the world but she also needs to develop a personalised language at the same time. Our social bond and shared experiences enable us to communicate more efficiently with less variation and ambiguity. In this project, the PhD studies how communication models can be adapted and become more efficient, more empathic and more natural on the basis of the social bond and the shared experience.

The PhD will work together with another PhD that focuses on the affective bonding and a PostDoc that develops the experimental robot framework.

The research is embedded in the Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab (, which 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: Within that framework several PhDs are working on the Leolani project, with which the PhD will also collaborate:

Finally, CLTL and the research you are involved in is also embedded in the VU-gravity project on Hybrid Intelligence: 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 1 May 2020.

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
Telephone: +31 6 81773878

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