PhD position within the EU-project 'BeFerroSynaptic' (1.0 FTE)


Faculty of Science and Engineering


University of Groningen

Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative institution of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programmes and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the approximately 32.000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. As one of the best research universities in Europe, the University of Groningen has joined forces with other top universities and networks worldwide to become a truly global centre of knowledge.

Groningen Cognitive systems and Materials Center is a research initiative that started beginning of 2018 and aims to address fundamental questions of relevance for developing materials and systems for cognitive computing. The center is embedded in the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE) and is created to provide structure, coherence and visibility to a joint research programme that comprises researchers from materials science, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science and artificial intelligence. The research programme aims to generate focus and critical mass to address the challenge of including new functional materials in the design of the new generation of cognitive computers, focussing on the fundamental research aspects.

Job description

We are looking for a motivated PhD candidate to work in an interdisciplinary environment under the supervision of Prof. Elisabetta Chicca at the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials and the newly founded research center CogniGron at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Within the scope of this position and the EU-project “BeFerroSynaptic”, new neuromorphic circuits will be designed, which will be smaller in size and able to model biologically inspired learning.

Processing the rising amount of data in today’s electronic devices requires a shift from a compute-centric to a more data-centric paradigm. To address the problem of limited data transfer rates, the concept of physical separation between computing and memory units needs to be rejected. Neuro-inspired architectures are a promising solution in which logic and memory functionality are combined in one synaptic unit. Using this idea, the EU-funded BeFerroSynaptic project aims to develop electronic synaptic devices based on a power-efficient memory technology called ferroelectric polarisation switching. The project’s ferrosynaptic technology platform will feature back-end-of-line integrated Hf(Zr)O2-based ferroelectric field-effect transistors and ferroelectric tunnelling junctions. The project’s achievements will open the way to more efficient data processing.

You will:

• develop and simulate spiking neural networks for information processing based on ferroelectric switching
• perform research on computer simulations, design and characterizations of neuromorphic circuits in analog VLSI Hardware
• design novel hybrid CMOS-FeFET neuron circuits with minimum size
• design of novel hybrid CMOS-FeFET and CMOS-FTJ learning circuits for neuro-synaptic cores for modelling biologically inspired learning algorithms
• contribute to the implementation of a real-time ultra-low power neuromorphic processor suitable for adaptive close-loop signal processing with high potential for monitoring and control applications
• publication of project results and presentations at national and international conferences.


• a background in computer sciences, engineering, electrical engineering, physics, mathematics, neurosciences, or related disciplines
• very good knowledge in the fields of neural networks and computational neuroscience
• experience and proficiency in the development of algorithms in Python or C++ and knowledge of the relevant frameworks, e.g. Brian2, SpiNNaker, pyNN
• knowledge of CMOS design (analog and/or digital)
• fluent written and oral communication skills in English
• interest in the design and development of bio-inspired systems for information processing
• interest and willingness in participate in international and interdisciplinary collaborations
• self-driven, goal-oriented and systematic approach to new topics
• high degree of commitment and initiative as well as being able to work closely and communicate effectively with a diverse group of scientists and technical staff.

Preferable qualifications:

• knowledge of (event-based) information processing
• experience with:
o neuromorphic hardware
o learning in spiking neural networks
o attractor neural networks
o brain-inspired computation
o synaptic plasticity models based on memristive devices
o physical models of Integrate-and-fire neurons
o chip characterization and system level integration
• knowledge of Linux-based IT environments.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

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

• a salary of € 2,395 gross per month in the first year to a maximum of € 3,061 gross per month in the final year (salary scale PhD students), based on a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
• an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% year-end bonus
• a position for four years; a successful candidate will first be offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years
• a fulltime position of 1.0 FTE
• ability to work in an international and interdisciplinary research environment of the EU-Project “BeFerroSynaptic” and closely together both with colleagues of the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, Bernoulli Institute for Mathematics, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, CogniGron and others within the Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen.

Preferable start date is 1 August 2020.

The vacancy is conditional to availability/ awarding of funding by the European Commission.

Job Application

Do you meet our qualification criteria? If yes, your application should include (maximum two pages per points 1-4):

1. a cover letter
2. a CV outlining prior education, research experience, skills and publications
3. academic transcripts (Bachelor and Master diploma and PhD)
4. a meaningful description of your research area (topics and methods) and a research statement covering personal research interests, planned research goals and how they fit into the research carried out in the BeFerroSynaptic project
5. two letters of reference.

Please, submit your application in English until 6 July 11:59pm / before 7 July 2020 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Interviews will be scheduled with shortlisted candidates.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you 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,

Funded by the European Union‘s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871737.

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Prof. Elisabetta Chicca

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 220223

Digital application form