2 PhD Candidates in Learning to rank for Information Retrieval, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Publish Date: Feb 26, 2016

Deadline: Mar 31, 2016

Faculty of Science – Informatics Institute

Publicatiedatum 18 februari 2016
Salarisindicatie €2,174 to €2,779 gross per month
Sluitingsdatum 31 maart 2016
Functieomvang 38 hours per week

The Informatics Institute is one of the large research institutes of the Faculty of Science. The institute has a prominent international standing and is active in a dynamic scientific area, with a strong innovative character and an extensive portfolio of externally funded projects.

The Informatics Institute invites applications for two Ph.D. positions for four years. The positions are part of the NWO-funded project Contextual Learning to Rank for Information Retrieval, which is funded within the TOP program. The project’s goal is to lay the foundations for contextual learning to rank methods, which automatically construct the right ranking features based on the query context. The positions will be supervised by Prof. Maarten de Rijke. The Ph.D. candidates will be part of a team that also includes a postdoctoral researcher in machine learning for information retrieval.

Project description

The two vacancies are part of the NWO-funded project 'Contextual learning to rank for information retrieval' led by Maarten de Rijke. The project’s goal is to lay the foundations for contextual learning to rank methods, which automatically construct the right ranking features based on the query context. We intend to use data collected through natural interactions with a live system to extract features that might not be obvious to researchers who manually design the ones currently used for learning to rank. Tackling the problem of constructing new ranking features requires significant progress along three lines. First, contextual clustering, where we aggregate queries that have similar intents associated with them so that similar ranking features would be appropriate for them. Second, ranker specialization, where we simultaneously select queries and extract ranking features that would be appropriate for them. And third, intent classification, where we learn to map queries to appropriate ranking features. The candidates to be hired on the project will work together with a postdoctoral researcher on a mixture of these research lines.


  • Conduct computer science research with a special focus on machine learning for information retrieval;
  • publish in top tier conferences and journals in information retrieval;
  • provide teaching assistance (10%);
  • complete a Ph.D. thesis.


To be able to make a flying start and succeed, candidates for this position should have considerable academic experience at the MSc-level in machine learning and/or information retrieval. Candidates are expected to have demonstrable algorithmic, theoretical and experimental experience, ideally combining quantitative and qualitative expertise.

In addition, a successful candidate should have:

  • an MSc degree in computer science, artificial intelligence, or a closely related field;
  • active knowledge of, and expertise in, modern information retrieval and machine learning methods;
  • programming experience in at least one of the following languages: Python, C, C++, or Java;
  • excellent oral and written communication skills;
  • ability to conduct innovative research, both as an independent researcher and as a strong team player.

Further information


The appointment will be full-time (38 hours a week) for a period of four years (initial employment is 18 months). Periodic evaluations will be held after 9 and 14 months, and upon positive evaluation, the appointment will be extended to a total of 48 months. The appointment must lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). An educational plan that includes attendance of courses, summer and/or winter schools, and national and international meetings will be drafted for the PhD candidate. The PhD candidate is also expected to assist in teaching of undergraduate students.

The salary is in accordance with the university regulations for academic personnel. The salary will range from €2,174 (first year) up to a maximum of €2,779 (last year) before tax per month (scale P) based on a full-time appointment. There are also secondary benefits, such as 8% holiday allowance per year and the end of year allowance of 8.3%. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities is applicable.

Job application

Applications may only be submitted electronically via application-science@uva.nl. To process your application immediately, please quote vacancy number 16-060 and the position you are applying for in the subject-line.

In the research statement (see below) you should clearly describe your research vision in relation to the topics that we described, as well as a clear statement which would be your direction of research. Candidates should also include the following information, in separate PDF files (not zipped), using surname, initials and a self-evident word as file names, e.g. , Smith J CV:

  • a curriculum vitae (including an url allowing download of pdf of M.Sc. thesis -- if relevant);
  • a letter of motivation (at most 1 page) explaining why you are interested in this position;
  • a research statement (at most 2 pages), explaining your research interests and how you think they can be related to the topics mentioned in the Job description above;
  • a list of all university courses taken, including a transcript of grades;
  • the name and contact details (including email address) of two – three referees who can provide details about your profile (one of whom should be the main supervisor of your Master thesis).

The committee does not guarantee that late or incomplete applications will be considered.

Applications will be accepted until 31 March 2016.

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