PhD position Theory of Computing in Nonlinear Dynamical Media (2.0 FTE)


Faculty of Science and Engineering


University of Groningen

Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has established an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative university offering high-quality teaching and research. With its 32,000 students and Nobel prize winning researchers, University of Groningen ranks among the top universities globally. It is situated in the vibrant capital of the northern Netherlands, Groningen.

Within the Faculty of Science and Engineering, department of AI, two 4-years PhD positions are available at the Department of AI (Bernoulli Institute) of the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, within the wider topical area of "Computing in Nonlinear Dynamical Media".

Job description

The position holder will be a member of the group of Herbert Jaeger (, who recently joined the University of Groningen. The position is funded through the European Marie Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) "Post-Digital". Such ITNs have a double mission: (a) to pursue a scientific research goal (like other European research projects), and (b) to provide an intense, interdisciplinary, international training environment for PhD students.

As to the scientific research in Post-Digital, the overall goals are to develop novel methods and demo applications for computing in non-digital, "neuromorphic" microchips, especially (but not exclusively) photonic ones. The consortium comprises 17 partners, mostly academic research groups, but also some industrial ones (large companies and startups). The specific role of Jaeger's group in Groningen is to contribute to a rigorous mathematical modeling of the complex, nonlinear, non-digital computational dynamics in the diverse hardwares developed by other partners. The Groningen group is thus singled out as "the theory group" within Post-Digital. Since theoretical analyses and the invention of new formal modeling frameworks is hard to plan in detail, the two PhD position holders will have considerable freedom to define their own research agenda as long as it contributes to a mathematical / conceptual understanding of neuromorphic computing.

As to the professional training opportunities, the PhD fellowships in Post-Digital will benefit from a rather intense scheme of cross-lab internships, project workshops, and professional training camps.

The local scientific context of Jaeger's group in Groningen is the Research Center for Cognitive Systems and Materials (CogniGron, This is a recent, very substantial research initiative (12 new professorships, 30 university-funded PhD positions) of the University of Groningen. Jointly managed by the Bernoulli Institute (mathematics, computer science, AI) and the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, the mission of CogniGron is to "to develop materials-centered systems paradigms for cognitive computing based on modelling and learning at all levels: from materials that can learn to devices, circuits and algorithms". This is a decidedly interdisciplinary enterprise at the interfaces between the materials sciences, microchip technology, computational neuroscience, cognitive science, AI, computer science and mathematics. Together with previously existing research groups at the university, the new CogniGron research groups will form a scientific microcosm of 20+ research teams.

Within this context, the group of Herbert Jaeger works towards rigorous theoretical foundations of "neuromorphic computing". At present, this is still an umbrella term which covers a diversity of largely unconnected and limited models and methods. A guiding idea in this emerging field is to argue that (A) novel, energy-efficient, non-digital microchips share many properties with biological brains (such as extremely high dimensionality, spatial and modular organisation, strong nonlinearity, stochasticity, low numerical resolution, parameter drift, aging, always-on real-time operation); (B) biological brains function exceedingly well; (C) hence, it should be possible to realize high-performing computing in neuromorphic microchips by "learning from the brain". However, the neurosciences do not yet deliver a comprehensive theory of how the brain "computes". The research mission of Jaeger's group is to develop new formal, conceptual and algorithmic tools which can fill some of the gaps in our theoretical understanding. This may lead to the invention of novel mathematical description languages which unify elements of symbolic information processing (logic formalisms, Turing computability) and analog information processing (nonlinear dynamics, signal processing and control theory).


The successful candidate should have a master's degree in computer science, AI, machine learning, signal processing and control, computational neuroscience, theoretical physics or mathematics (dynamical systems) or related fields.

The three main selection criteria are:
• the ability and inclination for rigorous conceptual thinking and mathematical formalization
• a strong interest in solving the riddles of information processing in complex dynamical systems (whether they be neural, technological, or even social)
• openness for working in a very interdisciplinary setting.

The "mobility rule" and other PhD openings in this ITN
According to the conditions and intentions of European Innovative Training Networks (ITN), applicants for this position in Groningen must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. This rule will exclude almost anybody who received his/her MSc degree in a Dutch university. – The nationality of the applicant is of no concern, and applicants need not have a European nationality.

Applicants who have resided in the Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date and who thus cannot apply to this position in Groningen, may consider applying for other PhD positions which are currently filled within this ITN in other countries. A consortium-wide job announcement with more details is at

Applicants must be (at the first day of their POST-DIGITAL employment contract) in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research career and have not been awarded a doctoral degree. This research experience is measured FROM the date when they obtain the degree, which formally entitles them to embark on a doctorate (either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited, even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged). Research Experience is measured TO the first day of the POST-DIGITAL employment contract of the researcher.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary of € 2,325 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 2,972 gross per month in the fourth and final year, based on a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
• an 8.3% year-end bonus
• a position for four years; you will get a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years; prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the next three years is to be expected
• a university PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering.

Job Application

Do you meet our qualification criteria? If yes, your application should include:

• letter of motivation, including a statement about the earliest possible and the preferred starting date
• CV (including contact information for at least two academic references)
• transcripts of bachelor’s and master’s degree studies.

The applications can be submitted until 30 June 11:59 pm / before 1 July 2020 Dutch local time by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Applications received before 1 July 2020 will be given full consideration; however, the position will remain open until it is filled.

We are an equal opportunity employer that values diversity. We have adopted an active policy to increase the number of female scientists across all disciplines of the university. Therefore, women are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Dr Herbert Jaeger
+31 50 3632473

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 220113-14

Digital application form