PhD position Natural Language Processing/Machine Translation (1.0 FTE)


Faculty of Arts


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. Its 35,000 students are encouraged to develop their own individual talents through challenging study and career paths. The University of Groningen is an international centre of knowledge: it belongs to the best research universities in Europe and is allied with prestigious partner universities and networks worldwide.

The Graduate School for the Humanities is the home to all PhD candidates of the Faculty of Arts (circa 250), and is committed to creating and maintaining excellent conditions for PhD research in all fields of the humanities. In addition to organising local courses, the GSH works closely with 16 national research schools which offer regular courses and seminars by national and international top researchers.

The Centre for Language and Cognition of the University of Groningen (CLCG) is the institutional home for all the linguistic research carried out within the Faculty of Arts. The Computational Linguistics group of CLCG provides a vibrant working atmosphere with state-of-the-art research in all major areas of Natural Language Processing.

Job description

Applications are invited for a PhD candidate in the area of natural language processing, machine translation and interpretable machine learning.
This position is embedded in the NWO-funded project “Interpreting deep learning models for language, speech & music”, which is due to start in June 2021 in collaboration with several other research centres and companies in the Netherlands. The project’s consortium brings together a number of pioneering experts in the field of interpretability ( and aims at bridging the gap between the latest academic advances and societal/industrial users of deep learning models at large. Specifically, the selected PhD candidate will work on the design of interpretable models for machine translation.
Neural Machine Translation (NMT) systems are routinely used for publication of multilingual content in commercial websites, but also as part of professional translation workflows where translators are increasingly working as MT ‘post-editors’. Through the collaboration with a Groningen-based translation company, the project will investigate ways to empower professional users of NMT so that they can contribute their concrete needs to interpretability research. Research activities include: 1) identifying and explaining recurring domain-specific translation errors; 2) augmenting NMT models with existing bilingual terminologies or other knowledge bases (e.g. morphological lexicons); 3) detecting gender (and other kinds of) biases in large-scale NMT models.


We are looking for a motivated and enthusiastic student with a Master degree in computational linguistics, artificial intelligence, computer science, information science, or related area. (If you expect to obtain your degree before September 2021, you are also eligible.)

Machine learning skills are mandatory; experience with training and/or designing neural networks for language processing tasks is strongly desired; experience in machine translation or neural model interpretability techniques is a plus. Furthermore an excellent knowledge of English and good academic writing skills are essential.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

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

• a salary of € 2,395 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,061 gross per month in the final year (based on full-time employment, for 4 years); the position requires residence in Groningen, and must yield a PhD dissertation
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income and an 8.3% year-end bonus
• initially an appointment for 18 months; after the first year, an assessment of the candidate's progress and results will take place to decide whether the employment can be continued.

You will be enrolled in the Graduate School for the Humanities (GSH) of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Groningen. The GSH offers the organisational infrastructure within which PhD candidates participate in advanced training and supervised research:

You will be carrying out your research in the context of the Computational Linguistics group of the CLCG research institute.

Job Application

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

1. A motivation letter in which you describe why you wish to do this research, and why you are the right person to do it
2. A full curriculum vitae, demonstrating academic excellence, including publications and presentations (if applicable)
3. Certified copies of your Bachelor and Master degrees and grades belonging to your bachelor and master degrees (in case of an on-going Master degree, please include your current grades and a certifying letter from your institution or thesis supervisor)
4. Contact details of two academic referees.

You can submit your application (in English) until 22 March 11.59 pm / before 23 March 2021 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Start date: 1 September 2021 (a somewhat earlier starting date can be discussed, but only if the MA degree has been obtained).

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,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Dr A. Bisazza (questions regarding the project)

Prof. R.M. Esser (questions regarding the Graduate School for the Humanities)

Mrs. C. Englert MA (for questions about the submission procedure)

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 221096

Digital application form