Postdoctoral Researcher in the Dutch Research Consortium ‘Language in Interaction’

Post Doc
Language and Computation in Neural Systems
full-time

We are looking for a highly motivated scientist to enrich a unique consortium of researchers that aims to cross the boundaries of various language-adjacent disciplines to unravel the neurocognitive mechanisms of language and its interaction with other cognitive systems from a formal modelling perspective. This specific project aims to computationally explicate the recursive abductive mechanisms underlying fast, flexible linguistic inference. The project leverages recent major advances in models of sequential model-based action planning and theories of analogical inference developed by the supervisory team to bridge different levels of explanation. The position provides the opportunity for conducting world-class research as a member of an interdisciplinary team embedded at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the Donders Institute at Radboud University.
 

Job description and work environment

The successful candidate will do theoretical work, with the aim of formally characterizing a theory in a computational model. The model has a formal, mathematical expression (e.g., in set, graph, logic, Bayesian or category theory) and a complementary neural network and/or reinforcement learning expression to identify the limits of such algorithms to explain language processing. The theoretical work ongoing in this project is in tandem with experimental work ongoing in other subprojects of Big Question 5. The postdoctoral researcher will be supervised by Professor Iris van Rooij, Dr. Mark Blokpoel, and Dr. Andrea E. Martin.

The Netherlands has an outstanding track record in the language sciences. The Language in Interaction research consortium, sponsored by a large grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), brings together many of the excellent research groups in the Netherlands with a research programme on the foundations of language. 
In addition to excellence in the domain of language and related relevant fields of cognition, our consortium provides state-of-the-art research facilities and a research team with ample experience in the complex research methods that will be invoked to address the scientific questions at the highest level of methodological sophistication. These include methods from genetics, neuroimaging, computational modelling, and patient-related research. This consortium realises both quality and critical mass for studying human language at a scale not easily found anywhere else.

We have identified five Big Questions (BQ) that are central to our understanding of the human language faculty. These questions are interrelated at multiple levels. Teams of researchers will collaborate to collectively address these key questions of our field. 
  
Our five Big Questions are: 
-BQ1: The nature of the mental lexicon: How to bridge neurobiology and psycholinguistic theory by computational modelling? 
-BQ2: What are the characteristics and consequences of internal brain organisation for language? 
-BQ3: Creating a shared cognitive space: How is language grounded in and shaped by communicative settings of interacting people? 
-BQ4: Variability in language processing and in language learning: Why does the ability to learn language change with age? How can we characterise and map individual language skills in relation to the population distribution? 
-BQ5: Inference for language and action planning: Common computations?  (coordinated by Professor Roshan Cools and Dr. Andrea E. Martin)

The successful candidate will become a member of our Big Question teams. The research is conducted in an international setting at all participating institutions. English is the lingua franca.

General requirements

• a doctoral degree in cognitive science, cognitive psychology, computer science or a
  related field 
• affinity with language research and with quantitative, conceptual, and logical analysis 
• strong motivation
• established and independent project and time management skills
• excellent proficiency in written and spoken English

Conditions of employment

The position is available from 1st January 2022, though the start date is negotiable. The term of appointment is full-time (39 hours per week) for 2,5 years (30 months). The salary is according to the German TVöD (Tarifvertrag für den öffentlichen Dienst) and is classified in salary group E13, between EUR 53,309 and EUR 62,527 gross per year depending on the experience of the applicant (including 8% holiday bonus), based on full-time employment. Research staff have access to cutting-edge research and training facilities and technical infrastructure (including high-performance computing), and to funding for conferences/travel.

Employer

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is a world-leading research institute devoted to interdisciplinary studies of the science of language and communication, including departments on genetics, psychology, development and neurobiology of these fundamental human abilities. The Institute is part of the Max Planck Society, an independent non-governmental association of German-funded research institutes dedicated to fundamental research in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Situated on the campus of the Radboud University in Nijmegen, we are the only Max Planck Institute to be located in the Netherlands. Scientists in the Netherlands report among the highest job satisfaction ratings of any in the world. Our Institute places a strong emphasis on supporting career development and achieving a manageable work-life balance for all employees.

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics recognizes the positive value of diversity, promotes equality and challenges discrimination. We are committed to redressing systemic problems with diversity in science, and therefore welcome applications from individuals from minority groups and from groups that are otherwise under-represented.

The position will be embedded in, and enriched by contact with, the Language and Computation in Neural Systems | Max Planck Institute (mpi.nl) and the Computational Cognitive Science | Donders Centre for Cognition, Radboud University

The Language in Interaction consortium brings together leading research teams with complementary expertise from eight different research institutions in the Netherlands to carry out ground-breaking research on the foundations of human language, at a scale not easily found anywhere else in the world. Further background: https://www.languageininteraction.nl/

How to apply

Applications should include:
(i)        Motivation letter
(ii)       CV, including a list of publications and the names and email addresses of at least two referees who would be willing to provide letters of recommendation

The closing date for applications is 1st December 2021.

You can apply here.

Enquiries can be sent to Lianne Peters (secretary) at lianne.peters [at] mpi.nl
 

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