PhD Position: Software Architecture for Neuro-Symbolic AI

PhD Position: Software Architecture for Neuro-Symbolic AI

Published Deadline Location
13 May 7 Jun Amsterdam

Job description

Are you an experienced and passionate Computer Science researcher with a track record in software engineering or artificial intelligence? Do you want to contribute and collaborate to shape the future of human-centric computing models and applications with an eye on society? Then keep reading, this fully-funded PhD position at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam(VU) may be for you!

With the current hype around generative AI and large language models (LLMs), one approach to partly mitigate the lack of common-sense reasoning of systems relying solely on machine learning (ML) is neuro-symbolic AI, i.e., synergistically combining the neural AI tradition via deep learning and artificial neural networks and the symbolic AI tradition via knowledge representation and reasoning. The vision of this combination is to gain the advantages of both worlds.

The Learning and Reasoning group and the Software and Sustainability group are looking for a joint PhD student in the field of software architecture for neuro-symbolic AI. The project will investigate how this unique combination of deep learning and symbolic reasoning AI methods influences important requirements like maintainability, evolvability, explainability, reliability, performance efficiency, or environmental sustainability. Taking a system perspective that is shaped by quality attribute trade-offs, the PhD student will develop and evaluate software architecture design techniques to support practitioners building such systems. To bridge the gap between these two fields, the PhD student will be supported by one supervisor with extensive AI expertise (Dr. Filip Ilievski) and one supervisor with extensive SE expertise (Dr. Justus Bogner).

Your duties
  • shape and refine the indicated research topic according to your interests
  • conduct research on the indicated topic using a variety of research methods
  • publish the results as scientific papers in prestigious SE and / or AI venues
  • attend suitable conferences to present the research
  • support BSc / MSc teaching and supervision activities in the department


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


As a university, we strive for equal opportunities for all, recognising that diversity takes many forms. We believe that diversity in all its complexity is invaluable for the quality of our teaching, research and service. We are always looking for talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This also means that we are committed to creating an inclusive community so that we can use diversity as an asset.

We realise that each individual brings a unique set of skills, expertise and mindset. Therefore we are happy to invite anyone who recognises themselves in the profile to apply, even if you do not meet all the requirements.
  • a strong MSc degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, or a related field
  • at least foundational knowledge in both SE and AI, but more advanced knowledge in one of the two areas is expected
  • solid programming abilities, e.g., in Python
  • excellent communication skills in English (verbal and written)
  • motivated team player that shows initiative to drive their own research
  • experience with foundational language models is a bonus
  • experience with neuro-symbolic AI is a bonus
  • experience with empirical research methods is a bonus
  • prior publications are a bonus
  • industry experience (especially with ML-enabled systems) is a bonus

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 18 months.

A challenging position in a socially engaged organisation. At VU Amsterdam, you contribute to education, research and service for a better world. And that is valuable. So in return for your efforts, we offer you:
  • a salary of minimum € 2.770,00 (PhD) and maximum € 3.539,00 (PhD) gross per month, on a full-time basis. This is based on UFO profile PhD candidate. The exact salary depends on your education and experience.
  • a position for at least 0.8 FTE. Your employment contract will initially last 18 months. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended to a total duration of 4 years.

We also offer you attractive fringe benefits and regulations. Some examples:
  • a full-time 38-hour working week comes with a holiday leave entitlement of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you have 96 extra holiday leave hours on an annual basis. For part-timers, this is calculated pro rata.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

About the department
The VU Department of Computer Science has approximately 200 staff members, including approximately 110 PhD students. Lecturers form a critical and essential basis for the functioning of the department, providing foundational education that helps determine the future of our students.

Our research and our students are diverse, covering disciplines such as Social sciences, Humanities, Economics, and Bioinformatics. Currently, we offer programs in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Information Sciences (BSc and MSc), and Bioinformatics and Systems Biology (MSc), with a total of around 1,000 new students each year.

Faculty of Science
Researchers and students at VU Amsterdam’s Faculty of Science tackle fundamental and complex scientific problems to help pave the way for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition, and from molecules to the moon: we cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. Our teaching and research have a strong experimentally technical, computational and interdisciplinary nature.

We work on new solutions guided by value-driven, interdisciplinary methodologies. We are committed to research, valorisation and training socially engaged citizens of the world who will make valuable contributions to a sustainable, healthy future.

Are you interested in joining the Faculty of Science? You will join undergraduate students, PhD candidates and researchers at the biggest sciences faculty in the Netherlands. You will combine a professional focus with a broad view of the world. We are proud of our collegial working climate, characterised by committed staff, a pragmatic attitude and engagement in the larger whole. The faculty is home to over 11,000 students enrolled in 40 study programmes. It employs over 1,600 professionals spread across 10 academic departments.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam stands for values-driven education and research. We are open-minded experts with the ability to think freely. - a broader mind. Maintaining an entrepreneurial perspective and concentrating on diversity, significance and humanity, we work on sustainable solutions with social impact. By joining forces, across the boundaries of disciplines, we work towards a better world for people and planet. Together we create a safe and respectful working and study climate, and an inspiring environment for education and research. Learn more about our codes of conduct

We are located on one physical campus, in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas business district, with excellent location and accessibility. Over 5,500 staff work at the VU and over 30,000 students attend academic education.

Diversity is the driving force of the VU. The VU wants to be accessible and receptive to diversity in disciplines, cultures, ideas, nationalities, beliefs, preferences and worldviews. We believe that trust, respect, interest and differences lead to new insights and innovation, to sharpness and clarity, to excellence and a broader understanding.

We stand for an inclusive community and believe that diversity and internationalisation contribute to the quality of education, research and our services.

Therefore, we are always searching for people whose backgrounds and experience contribute to the diversity of the VU community.

Additional information

Are you interested in this position and do you believe that your experience will contribute to the further development of our university? In that case, we encourage you to submit your application and upload your curriculum vitae, list of Master's grades, and cover letter until June 7, 2024.

Acquisition in response to this advertisement is not appreciated.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 4016


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1111, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 7 Jun 2024 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).