PhD Positions in Multilingual Neural Machine Translation

PhD Positions in Multilingual Neural Machine Translation

Published Deadline Location
24 Dec 13 Feb Amsterdam

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Job description

The Language Technology Lab at the Informatics Institute of the University of Amsterdam invites applications for three fully-funded, four-year PhD positions in the area of natural language processing (NLP) in general, and neural machine translation in particular. The three open PhD positions (in addition to two open post-doc positions) are part of an advanced career fellowship project funded by the Netherlands Science Foundation (NWO, Vici scheme) awarded to Prof. Monz.

Modern Neural Machine Translation (NMT) frameworks have resulted in nothing short of a revolution, yielding amazing advances in translation quality for many languages, e.g., English to German. NMT models learn complex translation mappings from bilingual data, consisting of human translations between sentences from a pair of languages. Recent research on multilingual NMT (ML-NMT) has shown that training one model simultaneously on many language pairs can lead to knowledge transfer between different languages. Current ML-NMT approaches show indeed impressive results for low-resource translation into English and zero-shot translation between related languages. However, translating into low-resource languages and zero-shot translation between distant languages remains of low quality, clearly indicating that we are still far away from accomplishing universal translation between all languages.

In this project, you will work in a team of six researchers and devise and investigate novel machine translation models that are more robust under limited training data conditions and models that allow for better knowledge transfer from high-quality translation directions to low-quality ones. Your research will be carried out in the context of our existing neural machine translation architecture implemented in PyTorch.

The research in this project will address a number of overarching questions including (but not limited to)…

  • How can we better train models for language pairs where only a very limited amount of training data is available?
  • What should novel models or training procedures look like that allow us to explicitly stimulate knowledge transfer between language pairs?
  • How can we achieve good quality translations for language pairs without any parallel training data (zero-shot problem)?
  • How can we improve the robustness of neural machine translation?


What are you going to do?

With our help and support, you will:

  • innovate techniques and models for low resource machine translation and transfer learning between languages;
  • experimentally verify research hypothesis and contribute to our machine translation infrastructure;
  • design and perform controlled experiments to gain modelling insights and answer fundamental research questions;
  • contribute to (and benefit from) our existing neural machine translation infrastructure;
  • advance the state of the art in machine translation
  • complete and defend your PhD thesis;
  • become an active member of the research community and collaborate within and outside the Language Technology Lab;
  • publish and present work regularly at international conferences, workshops, and journals;
  • assist in teaching activities (labs/tutorials) and in supervising Bachelor and Master students.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


What do we require of you?

  • A Master's degree (completed or near completion) in a relevant discipline, such as computer science, artificial intelligence, computational linguistics or similar.
  • Serious interest in pursuing fundamental research with concrete applications.
  • A highly motivated, passionate, and creative attitude.
  • A strong background in natural language processing, machine learning, and deep learning.
  • Excellent programming skills preferably in Python.
  • Strong communication, presentation, and writing skills and excellent command of English.
  • A commitment to maintaining an inclusive, collaborative, diverse, and supportive work environment.

If you are interested but unsure if you are qualified, please contact Prof. Christof Monz before applying. If your Master’s degree is near completion, it must be completed before the start date. Knowledge of the Dutch language is not required for this position, nor for being able to live in Amsterdam. However, the UvA provides the opportunity to attend Dutch language classes if desired.

Conditions of employment

We offer a temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of four years (initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of four years). This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and Master students.

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,443 to €3,122 (scale P) gross per month, based on a fulltime contract (38 hours a week). This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look here.


University of Amsterdam

With over 6,000 employees, 30,000 students and a budget of more than 600 million euros, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is an intellectual hub within the Netherlands. Teaching and research at the UvA are conducted within seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Law, Science, Medicine and Dentistry. Housed on four city campuses in or near the heart of Amsterdam, where disciplines come together and interact, the faculties have close links with thousands of researchers and hundreds of institutions at home and abroad.  

The UvA’s students and employees are independent thinkers, competent rebels who dare to question dogmas and aren’t satisfied with easy answers and standard solutions. To work at the UvA is to work in an independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterised by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society.


Faculty of Science - Informatics Institute

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

The mission of the Informatics Institute is to perform curiosity-driven and use-inspired fundamental research in Computer Science. The main research themes are Artificial Intelligence, Computational Science and Systems and Network Engineering. Our research involves complex information systems at large, with a focus on collaborative, data driven, computational and intelligent systems, all with a strong interactive component.

The positions are with Prof. Christof Monz, professor in Computer Science and head of the Language Technology Lab (LTL). The LTL is a newly established research lab within the Informatics Institute. The University of Amsterdam has a high concentration of excellent Artificial Intelligence researchers across different areas, including Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning and Computer Vision.


  • PhD scholarship
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2443—€3122 per month
  • University graduate
  • 21-7898


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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