IMPRS PhD Fellowships 2024 **DEADLINE PASSED**

IMPRS Fellowships Language and Genetics Language Development
full-time part-time

The International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Language Sciences is offering two fully-funded PhD Fellowship for four years (2024-2028) with a preferred start-date in September or October, 2024.

The IMPRS for Language Sciences invites applications for TWO PhD fellowships that are funded by the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science. The goal of the scheme is to enable young researchers to pursue interdisciplinary research projects in the language sciences, supervised by leading scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and its partner institutes at the Radboud University -- the Centre for Language Studies and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour.

For the current round, the hiring departments -- Language & Genetics and Language Development -- are looking to fill one position each. Please consult the project listings further below for more information.

What we offer you

  • The position is intended to begin in Sep-Oct 2024; start-date is negotiable but the candidate should be in place by end of 2024.
  • Full-time position (39 hours per week) for 4 years; part-time option negotiable.
  • Starting gross monthly salary is approx. €3,000 based on full-time employment, as determined according to the German TVöD (Tarifvertrag für den öffentlichen Dienst).
  • 30 holidays per year, based on full-time employment; in addition, we honor the Dutch and German public holidays.
  • Enrollment in a personal pension scheme to which both employer and employee pay a monthly contribution.
  • Access to state-of-the art research and training facilities and a generous conference and travel budget. 
  • Educational training programme provided by the International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences.
  • Doctoral degree conferred by Radboud University, our partner university.


The employer

About our institute

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, neurobiology and multimodality of these fundamental human abilities.

We investigate how children and adults acquire their language(s), how speaking and listening happen in real time, how the brain processes language, how the human genome contributes to building a language-ready brain, how multiple modalities (as in speech, gesture and sign) shape language and its use in diverse languages and how language is related to cognition and culture, and shaped by evolution.

We are 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.

The Max Planck Society is an equal opportunities employer. We recognise the positive value of diversity and inclusion, promote equity and challenge discrimination. We aim to provide a working environment with room for differences, where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Therefore, we welcome applications from all suitably qualified candidates.

Our institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University and has close collaborative links with the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour and the Centre for Language Studies at Radboud University. We also work closely with other child development researchers as part of the Baby & Child Research Center.

About our graduate school

The IMPRS for Language Sciences is a joint initiative of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and two research institutes based at Radboud University -- the Centre for Language Studies and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. The graduate school serves to bring together outstanding doctoral students from diverse disciplines in the language sciences on campus, and offer them high-quality training in an environment that both broadens their interdisciplinary experience and prepares them for fulfilling careers in the language sciences.

Our education and training programme involves both core and individually chosen coursework to complement the PhD research, and training in soft skills such as writing and presentation. 

Learn more here.

How to apply

The deadline has passed; we are no longer accepting applications.
Please consult the FAQs below for more information on the timeline and other potential updates in the coming period.


Language & Genetics Project 1

Supervisory Team


Deciphering the roles of rare genetic variants in developmental speech/language disorders

Moving beyond the original discovery of the FOXP2 gene, we have used next-generation sequencing to identify rare DNA mutations of additional genetic loci implicated in childhood speech/language impairments, several of which (e.g. SETBP1, CHD3) are also linked to broader neurodevelopmental disorders. 

This interdisciplinary project aims to gain insights into the impacts of such rare gene disruptions at multiple levels, by integrating in-depth data from clinical and speech/language profiles of affected patients with lab-based analyses in human neuronal models, for example, organoids generated from induced pluripotent stem cells.


Recommended Readings



  • A finished (or soon-to-be finished) Masters* degree in a field with clear relevance for analysis of gene variants in human neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. medical biology, biomedical sciences, molecular medicine, molecular mechanisms of disease, molecular life sciences). *see also FAQ #09
  • Prior experience of research activities in either a clinical genetics or molecular biology wet-lab setting.
  • Willingness to learn new methods through guidance from colleagues, on-line resources, and training courses as needed.
  • Critical, careful and responsible approach to scientific research, placing emphasis on robustness and reproducibility of results.
  • Ability to clearly communicate research plans and outcomes to others, in spoken and written form.
  • Interest in bridging scientific fields and working together with researchers from a wide range of backgrounds.



  • Experience applying molecular biology or cell-culture techniques used for analysing human genomic variants.
  • Familiarity with literature on how/why advances in genomics and cellular models are yielding new insights into the biology of human brains and behaviour.


Language & Genetics Project 2

Supervisory Team


Mapping language-relevant genetic effects on brain variability using normative modelling

Recent studies have identified genetic influences on brain and behavioural traits that are relevant for the human capacity for language, including speech and language-related disorders, hemispheric asymmetry, and/or recently evolved brain features. However, genetic studies of language-related disorders have usually lacked brain image data, while brain imaging genetic studies typically focus on group average differences. It is likely that various genetic effects are associated with somewhat distinct alterations of the brain across different individuals, for example when due to reduced developmental control, but this possibility remains largely unexplored.

In this project we will apply state-of-the-art normative modelling approaches to large-scale brain imaging and DNA data from the general population, to map heterogeneous effects of language-relevant genetic variants on the human brain. Normative modelling is particularly powerful for studying effects of rare genetic variants, since it allows inferences to be made at the level of the individual, opening up new possibilities for understanding language neurobiology.


Recommended Readings



  • A finished or soon-to-be completed Masters* degree in a field with clear relevance for carrying out brain imaging genetics in large-scale data. *see also FAQ #09
  • Proficiency in programming in languages such as Python, R, Matlab or C++.
  • Experience with statistical analysis and machine learning.
  • Willingness to learn new methods in neuroimage data analysis, bioinformatics, statistics and genomic data analysis, through guidance from colleagues, on-line resources, and training courses as needed.
  • Critical, careful and responsible approach to scientific research, placing emphasis on robustness and reproducibility of results.
  • Ability to clearly communicate research plans and outcomes to others, in spoken and written form.
  • Interest in bridging scientific fields and working together with researchers from a wide range of backgrounds.



  • Previous experience of either brain imaging data analysis, omic-scale bioinformatics and data analysis, or neurogenetics research.


Language & Genetics Project 3

Supervisory Team


Genetic architecture of the human language network

This project aims to investigate the intricate relationship between genetics and the connectional anatomy of the language network in the human brain. To do so, we will employ advanced neuroimaging techniques to map neural circuits implicated in language processing, characterize interindividual differences in their properties, and associate these with variation at the DNA level, using a range of resources, including cohorts that are publicly available (e.g. the UK Biobank) and in-house (e.g. our Language in Interaction dataset).

Findings will be integrated with (i) prior genome-wide association studies of language-related phenotypes, (ii) data on spatiotemporal gene expression in the human brain, (iii) evolutionary/comparative genomic signatures. Ultimately, this project seeks to enhance our understanding of the biological underpinnings of human language, with far-reaching implications for both clinical practice and fundamental neuroscience.


Recommended Readings



  • A finished (or soon-to-be finished) Masters* degree in a field with clear relevance for neuroimaging and/or genetic analyses. *see also FAQ #09
  • Skills in basic programming.
  • Creative problem-solving attitude.
  • Willingness to learn new methods through guidance from colleagues, on-line resources, and training courses as needed.
  • Critical, careful and responsible approach to scientific research, placing emphasis on robustness and reproducibility of results.
  • Ability to clearly communicate research plans and outcomes to others, in spoken and written form.
  • Interest in bridging scientific fields and working together with researchers from a wide range of backgrounds.



  • For imagers, previous experience of working with relevant databases (e.g. HCP, UK Biobank, EBrains), applying diffusion-weighted imaging/ tractography experience, and/or embedding tools (e.g. UMAP).
  • For geneticists, experience/familiarity with the standard bioinformatics tools used for analysing human genomics datasets.
  • Advanced programming skills.
  • Knowledge of structural/connectional brain anatomy and foundations of human biology.


Language Development Project 1

Supervisory Team


Child language acquisition in under-studied language(s)

A recent review of research in child language acquisition reported that our research covers less than 2% of the world’s languages, with the majority on English (54%) or other into-European Languages (30%).  The available data sources, thus, do not reflect the enormous diversity of the world’s 7000+ languages. This in turn impacts our ability to explain how children learn language (i.e., to show how the child’s mind can learn and the adult’s mind can use, with approximately equal ease, any one of this vast range of alternative systems; Evans & Levinson, 2009: 447).

This project will focus on studying acquisition in one (or more) under-studied languages.  The applicant should be fluent in the language, and preferably should have existing contacts with at least one local community of people who use that language. Applications can focus on spoken or signed languages and can cover any relevant topic (e.g. phonology, lexicon, morphosyntax etc.) but priority will be given to projects that fit within the supervisors’ current interests/areas of expertise.


Recommended Readings



  • A Masters’ degree* in a relevant discipline (e.g., psychology, linguistics, (cognitive) neuroscience, cognitive & behavioural science) or a relevant Bachelor’s degree plus equivalent professional experience. *see also FAQ #09
  • A keen interest in the issue of how children acquire their first language(s).
  • Excellent level of fluency in the language that will be the focus of the research; enough to converse easily with participants and members of the public and to create and conduct experimental studies if required.
  • Excellent written and spoken English.



  • Some experience of field work in research.
  • Some experience of working with children.
  • An explicit interest in, and commitment to, Open Science.


Language Development Project 2

Supervisory Team


Surprise! Why do babies like infant-directed speech? An information theoretic approach

When talking to their babies, caregivers often change the way they speak, and infants pay more attention to such infant-directed speech than to adult-directed speech. Why is infants’ attention attracted to this way of speaking?

One novel hypothesis suggests that infants’ fundamental information processing biases their attention to surprising events, and caregivers use such elements in their infant-directed speech. This PhD project will examine whether it is indeed the unpredictability of infant-directed speech that drives infants’ increased attention. It will also investigate whether caregivers’ use of unpredictability changes across languages and cultures and/or as a function of children’s language development.


Recommended Readings



  • Candidates with a Masters’ degree* in developmental psychology, (psycho-)linguistics, cognitive science, or a related field (or equivalent professional experience) who are highly motivated to conduct interdisciplinary empirical research at the intersection of developmental psychology and cognitive science. *see also FAQ #09
  • Due to the international and interdisciplinary nature of the research group, good collaborative and communication skills are essential.
  • The successful candidates will have a proven affinity with experimental psychology and/or computational modelling of behaviour and/or cognitive (neuro)science research.



  • Experience running experimental studies with children.
  • Demonstrable experience with techniques for quantitative data analysis (e.g. Matlab, Python, R) is desirable but training will be provided.
  • An explicit interest in, and commitment to, Open Science.  


FAQs | Last Updated: 05 Dec 2023

Update history:
05 Dec: FAQ#02 -- We added 'one-page summary of master's thesis' to the list of required documents.
04 Dec: FAQ#02 -- A note has been added about how to indicate which project you're applying for.
01 Dec: FAQ#01 -- The link to the application portal has been posted.
16 Nov: FAQ#02 -- We added a note about how to submit your application.


Please study this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section thoroughly.

Should any questions remain unanswered, please get in touch with the IMPRS Coordinator, dr. Kevin Lam, by e-mail.

Kindly note that all information presented here is subject to change without advance notice. We invite you to check back regularly for the latest details.


01. What is the timeline?

Tentative Schedule

Full advert posted

8 Nov 2023

Application portal opens

1 Dec

Application deadline

8 Jan 2024



Shortlisted candidates invited

2 Feb

Referees of shortlisted candidates contacted

2 Feb

Reference form submission deadline

9 Feb




Informal conversations with department IMPRSers       

5 – 22 Feb

Informal conversation with selection committee
and potential supervisors        

26 Feb – 8 Mar

Notice of offers & rejections sent

29 Mar


02. How do I submit my application and what needs to be included in the application?

You can submit your application via the portal (9 Jan update: portal is no longer open).
In order for an application to be considered for review, it must contain the following:

  • curriculum vitae, listing your entries in reverse chronological order.
  • letter of motivation, stating a) your motivation to do a PhD and why you have chosen the project(s) you are applying for, and b) why you think you are suitable for the position (i.e. how you fit the criteria specified for the chosen project).

    Kindly indicate which project you're applying for at the top of your letter.
    Example header: Language Development Project 2

    Please also state your availability in the period 26 Feb - 8 Mar, indicating time slots in your local timezone.
  • one-page summary of your master's thesis.
  • supporting documents, such as academic degrees, diplomas and transcripts.


A photo is not required. In fact, we encourage you to remove any photos from your application.

IMPORTANT: Consult the remaining FAQ items to ensure that your application is complete and meets the requirements to be considered for review.


03. What information must be included in the curriculum vitae?

Please list all entries in reverse chronological order (e.g., 2023>2022>2021, etc.). The CV must make clear your academic and employment history, including gaps related to unemployment and parental leave. If available, please include your publication entries, awards and scholarships received, as well as social, cultural and sportive activities.

Please also include the contact information of up to 3 (academic) referees. NOTE: We will contact your referees to complete a referee form ONLY IF you are invited for an interview. Please do NOT submit any reference letters; these will not be read and will delay the processing of your application as we will have to manually exclude them.

Your CV should be no more than 2 pages in length. We prefer to receive CVs without photo and birthday/year to ensure a procedure that is as objective as possible.


04. May I apply to more than 1 project?

You may apply up to three research projects. Also, there is absolutely no need to contact the supervisory team at any moment -- we wish to ensure that each applicant is given the same consideration based on the requested materials. 

Please ensure that you submit a separate letter of motivation for each project WITHIN the same application. Also, please be sure to clearly indicate your ranking of each project in the header of the letter.

Example header: Language & Genetics Project 3 - RANK #1


05. Do I need to include transcripts from my bachelor and/or master studies? What if I do not have official transcripts in English / Dutch / German?

Yes, please enclose official transcripts (in English, Dutch or German) of all your degree-level studies.

Documents in languages other than English, Dutch or German must be translated into any of the aforementioned languages. We apologise for any inconveniences this may cause.

For the application, you may submit a tentative non-certified English / Dutch / German translation of the document(s). The original document(s) must be included in your application.

Certified true or notarised copies (including translated ones) must be promptly provided upon request when the applicant is invited for an interview. Ultimately, these versions will be required in order for an official offer of employment to be made and to be issued a contract of employment at the MPI for Psycholinguistics.


06. Am I required to submit a certificate of English proficiency?

Solid knowledge of the English language (CEFR B2 level) is necessary. However, we do not require proof of English language proficiency by means of a language test. Nevertheless, you may include the result of any such test if you have already taken one.


07. Am I required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test?

No, we do not require any GRE scores. Nevertheless, you may include the result of any such test if you have already taken one.


08. May I apply while still completing my current academic degree?

Certainly! Please be sure to include a transcript of records that includes the grades of all coursework completed so far. Do note that if your application is successful, you are required to provide the original final transcript and your academic certificates (as well as certified translations if these are not in English, Dutch or German) no later than the time of admission into the graduate school.


09. What counts as an equivalent of a (research) masters degree?

Applicants who are completing, or have completed, a 4-year thesis-based Bachelor Honours degree may be considered for our Fellowships. Such degrees may be recognised by the conferring institution as equivalents of masters degree for the purpose of admission into a PhD programme. If this applies to you, please be sure to include an official signed confirmation statement from your institution as part of your supporting documents. We will review all such applications on a case-by-case basis.

Please note that the degree's graduating requirement must include a year-long individual research project supervised by a faculty member, which culminates in a written thesis in the final year. Moreover, evidence of substantial relevant research experience in the intended research topic(s) is desirable.


10. May I complete the doctoral programme on a part-time basis?

Yes, there is the opportunity to do so. We invite you to discuss this with the supervisory team, should you be invited for an interview.


11. Are there opportunities to acquire teaching experience?

Though you will not be required to teach as part of your contract, we provide our IMPRS members with opportunities to teach within and outside the IMPRS community. Such opportunities include workshops, lectures, courses as well as guest lectures at the Radboud University. If you have interest in making use of these opportunities, we invite you to have a conversation about this with the supervisory team, should you be invited for an interview.


12. Who confers the doctoral degree upon graduation?

The doctoral degree will be conferred by one of the faculties at Radboud University.


13. If successful, will I get help with finding accommodation?

For applicants arriving for the first time in the Netherlands, we can assist you in finding appropriate temporary accommodation, e.g., at the campus guest house. However, the successful applicant is responsible for arranging their own accommodation for the duration of their PhD project.



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