2 Postdoc and 1 RA Position available

Position specific information

Please find descriptions of the available positions below.
 
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Big Question 1

Scientific summary
The big question this project addresses is how to use computational modelling to link levels of description, from neurons to cognition and behaviour, in understanding the language system. We focus on the mental lexicon and aim to characterise its structure in a way that is precise and meaningful in neurobiological and psycholinguistic terms. Our overarching goal is to devise causal/explanatory models of the mental lexicon that can explain neural and behavioural data. This will significantly deepen our understanding of the mental lexicon, lexical access, and lexical acquisition.

Postdoc Position - BQ1-1

Content Description
The key question addressed in this project is how to learn word vector representations that encode the combinatorial properties of words required to account for complex linguistic phenomena. Current distributional semantics models typically ignore the hierarchical structure of the sentences in which they occur. They yield word representations that capture semantic similarity among concrete nouns and verbs very well, but have less to say about more abstract semantic and syntactic properties. In contrast, in all major frameworks in theoretical linguistics, the lexicon contains rich information about each word: not only about its (referential) semantics, but also about its morphosyntactic category and other combinatorial properties. In this project we study, in machine-learned vector-space models, the concrete linguistic phenomena that have motivated the properties of existing linguistic formalisms (such as CCG, TAG, HPSG, CxG, Simpler Syntax, GB, and MG). The project will first identify among those linguistic phenomena the ones most useful for evaluating the vector-space models. We will then work on techniques to investigate how these existing neural models deal with the phenomena in question, and, importantly, how to quantify the performance of these models on these phenomena.

Requirements
You should have a PhD degree (or equivalent) in (computational) linguistics, or another relevant field of study. A strong background in syntax, formal semantics and/or parsing is required: you should be familiar with various formalisms for lexical and compositional semantics and syntax, and with a range of linguistic phenomena that motivate these formalisms. Knowledge of methods in distributional semantics and machine learning for Natural Language Processing is desirable, as is previous experience with vector space models of semantic compositionality. An active interest in the cognitive science and neuroscience of language is essential.

Preference will be given to candidates whose profile stands out in comparison with international peers.

Embedding and Terms of employment
You will be based at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, at the Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam.

  • Employment: 1.0 FTE;
  • in addition to the salary: an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a maximum gross monthly salary of €4,757 based on a 38-hour working week (salary scale 11);
  • you will be appointed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 30 months.
  • the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) of Dutch Universities is applicable to this position;
  • you will be classified as a Researcher, Level 3 in the Dutch university job-ranking system (UFO);
  • the institute involved has regulations in place that enable its staff to create a good work-life balance.

Further information about position BQ1-1:
Please contact: Dr. Willem Zuidema and/or Dr. Raquel Fernández

Big Question 4

Scientific summary
We aim to characterise variation in language processing and learning skills and to determine how these variations relate to those in the underlying biology of individual participants. The project has two strands: Strand A focuses on language processing skills in young adults, and Strand B on language learning skills in children and adults.
Strand A will develop a comprehensive battery of language tasks targeting sound, meaning, and grammatical processing of words and longer utterances during speaking and listening. In addition, tasks will be selected or developed assessing general cognitive skills that are likely to affect performance in language tasks. Strand B uses variability in learning ability to investigate why second-language acquisition can become harder in adulthood. It will consist of two sub-projects, one on grammar learning and one on word learning. In each sub-project, a large number of child, adolescent and adult Dutch participants (aged 8-30 years) will be tested using behavioural and neuroimaging techniques. The main research questions are: (a) Why do some individuals find it easier to learn language? and (b) Which aspects of language learning change with age, and why?

Two four-year full-time positions are currently open in Strand B. The preferred starting date for both positions is November 1st 2017.

Postdoc Position - BQ4-1

Content Description
You will have two primary responsibilities. The first is to coordinate and manage Strand B as a whole (e.g. interfacing between research assistants and senior researchers, planning experiment preparation, data collection and data analysis, and coordinating joint work with Strand A). The second responsibility is to develop, conduct and manage the sub-project within Strand B on grammar learning. The behavioural tasks in this sub-project will include a battery of cognitive tests, the battery of language tasks generated by Strand A, measures of English proficiency, and, critically, a training task on a new aspect of grammar. Neuroimaging will include functional MRI and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI). The goal is to characterise variability in grammar learning abilities by linking performance on the training task to the other behavioural data and to the functional and structural neural measures. This postdoctoral position will enable you to advance your scientific career.

Requirements
You should

  • have a PhD degree (or equivalent) in the cognitive neuroscience of language learning or of human memory, or in a closely-related field of study.
  • be familiar, ideally, with running MRI experiments and with analysing MRI data (including DTI data), with carrying out psycholinguistic and/or learning experiments, with research on individual differences, and with testing children.
  • have excellent organisational and communication skills and programming abilities.
  • have knowledge and hands-on experience in current data analyses techniques.
  • have demonstrable interest in language acquisition and the cognitive neuroscience of language.
  • be a proficient speaker of Dutch.

Applications from excellent candidates with a less than ideal profile will also be considered. Women and members of minority groups are especially encouraged to apply.Applications from excellent candidates with a less than ideal profile will be equally considered.

Embedding and Terms of employment
You will be based at the Donders Institute - Centre for Cognition, Faculty of Social Sciences, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands.

  • Employment: 1.0 FTE;
  • in addition to the salary: an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a maximum gross monthly salary of €4,757 based on a 38-hour working week (salary scale 11);
  • you will be appointed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 30 months.
  • the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) of Dutch Universities is applicable to this position;
  • you will be classified as a Researcher, Level 3 in the Dutch university job-ranking system (UFO);
  • the institute involved has regulations in place that enable its staff to create a good work-life balance.

Further information about position BQ4-1
Please contact: Prof. James McQueen, Dr. Kristin Lemhöfer or Dr. Gabriele Janzen.

Reserach Assistant Position - BQ4-2

Content Description
You will support the postdoc and other staff with the research of Strand B of Big Question 4. Tasks will include (a) the preparation of materials for experiments, (b) the recruitment of a large sample of child, adolescent and adult participants, (c) the collection of behavioral and MRI data from those participants, (c) the archiving of those data, and, possibly, (d) some aspects of data analysis. You will work in the team of researchers engaged in Strand B and, more broadly, coordinate with those working on Strand A. You will work not only on the grammar-learning sub-project (see advertised postdoc position BQ4-1) but also on the other sub-project of Strand B, which is on word learning. You will take part in a novel and exciting project designed to address why there are individual differences in language learning ability. This position will enable you to advance your career in science (e.g. it will be excellent preparation for a PhD).

Requirements

You should

  • have completed, with good grades, a Bachelor’s or (Research) Master’s degree in psychology, linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, or a closely-related field of study.
  • be familiar, ideally, with running experiments with human subjects (MRI experiments and/or behavioural experiments in psycholinguistics and/or human memory and/or individual differences).
  • have experience with testing large numbers of participants. Experience with testing children would be especially welcome.
  • have excellent organizational and communicative skills and programming abilities.
  • have demonstrable interest in language acquisition and the cognitive neuroscience of language.
  • be a proficient speaker of Dutch.
    It would be preferred if you had experience with analysis of large datasets on behavioral and/or neuroimaging measures.

Applications from excellent candidates with a less than ideal profile will also be considered. Women and members of minority groups are especially encouraged to apply.

Embedding and Terms of employment
You will be based at the Donders Institute, RadboudUMC, Nijmegen, Netherlands.

  • Employment: 0.8-1.0 FTE;
  • in addition to the salary: an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a maximum gross monthly salary of €2,980 based on a 36-hour working week (salary scale 7);
  • you will be appointed for a period of 24 months with possibilities for extension;
  • the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) of Dutch University Medical Centres is applicable to this position;
  • the institute involved has regulations in place that enable its staff to create a good work-life balance.

Further information about position BQ4-2
Please contact: Prof. James McQueen, Dr. Kristin Lemhöfer or Dr. Gabriele Janzen.