Ph D Student Position in Computer Science

Umeå University
October 02 2017
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

A position within the Wallenberg Autonomous Systems and Software Program.

Research topic: Where, when, how - Interacting with Autonomous Systems

Umeå University is seeking outstanding candidates for a  PhD student position in Computer Science with focus on Cognitive Engineering at the Department of Computing Science. The Department of Computing Science is a dynamic environment with around 100 employees representing around 20 countries worldwide. We conduct education and research on a broad range of topics in Computing Science. The Spatial Cognitive Engineering group at the department conducts research in cognitive issues of human-computer interaction and smart assistance systems.

The Wallenberg Autonomous Systems and Software Program (WASP)

The Wallenberg Autonomous Systems and Software Program is Sweden's largest individual research program ever, and provides a platform for academic research and education, fostering interaction with Sweden's leading technology companies. The program addresses research on autonomous systems acting in collaboration with humans, adapting to their environment through sensors, information and knowledge, and forming intelligent systems-of-systems. WASP's key values are research excellence and industrial relevance.

The graduate school within WASP is dedicated to provide the skills needed to analyze, develop, and contribute to the interdisciplinary area of autonomous systems and software. The curriculum provides the foundations, perspectives, and state-of-the-art knowledge in the different disciplines taught by leading researchers in the field. Through an ambitious program with research visits, partner universities, and visiting lecturers, the graduate school actively supports forming a strong multi-disciplinary and international professional network between PhD students, researchers and industry.

The graduate school provides added value on top of the existing PhD programs at the partner universities, providing unique opportunities for students who are dedicated to achieving international research excellence with industrial relevance.

Research project

Autonomous systems, such as smart buildings, self-driving vehicles, or robots in household or healthcare settings, are on the verge of becoming integral parts of our society and everyday lives. In recent years, there has been tremendous progress in making these systems truly autonomous, but considerably less thought seems to have been spent on how to interact with them. But in the end, this interaction will be crucial for their success and acceptance in society. For example, we might rather like to tell a self-driving car to take us to “Grandma's” or to “the gym” than to “22 Smith St” or to “57°33'N 24°15'W”. And if dozing off during the drive and waking up again, “on the highway” may be a valid but not particularly helpful answer by the car to our question of “where are we?” Likewise, when sending off an autonomous robot to do something for us, we would expect it to provide some meaningful feedback upon its return, not just suddenly standing silently next to us.

In other words, while autonomous systems are autonomous, they are not self-sufficient. Sooner or later they need to interact with humans, which means they need to communicate (the results of) their processing in ways these humans can understand, be it verbally, as text, or in graphical form. Such meaningful interaction requires some common ground between human and system on the concept level. And in cases where interactions are few and far apart, it also requires re-establishment of context and proper re-initiation of interaction.

This PhD project will explore such interaction between human and autonomous systems. It will focus on questions of how to determine and communicate meaningful spatial and temporal references, given that the last interaction may have been minutes or even hours ago. The aim is to develop methods for both understanding and producing such references. Among others, research in this project may involve questions of matching human and system understanding of spatial and temporal concepts (knowledge representation / ontologies), determining relevant, meaningful references (reasoning / machine learning), and how to best re-establish interaction contexts (human-computer interaction).

About the position

The successful applicant will receive a competitive salary for a period of four years full time research, provided that expected study and research results are achieved. No teaching is expected. Expected starting date is 1st of January 2018 or as otherwise agreed.

Admission requirements

The applicant is required to have completed a second- cycle level degree, or completed course requirements of at least 240 ECTS credits, of which at least 60 ECTS credits are at second-cycle level, or have an equivalent education from overseas, or equivalent qualifications. To fulfil the specific entry requirements for doctoral studies in computing science, the applicant is required to have completed courses at second-cycle level degree equivalent to 60 ECTS credits in computing science, or in a subject considered to be directly relevant for the specialisation in question.

Candidates are expected to have a background in computer science or a related discipline such as cognitive science. In the latter case a very good understanding of fundamental concepts of computer science and good programming experience is required. A specialization in artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, or computational linguistics is a merit. Since the research is conducted in an international research environment, the ability for good teamwork, and a very good command of the English language, both written and spoken, are key requirements


A complete application should contain the following documents:

• A cover letter including a description of your research interests, your reasons to apply for the position, and your contact information

• A curriculum vitae

• If applicable, copy of completed BSc and/or MSc thesis and other original research publications

• Copies of degree certificates, including documentation of completed academic courses and obtained grades

• Contact information for two persons willing to act as references

Applications must be submitted electronically using the e-recruitment system Varbi, and be received no later than October 20, 2017. Reference number: AN 2.2.1-1682-17. Log on to the system and apply via the button at the bottom of the web page.

The procedure for recruitment for the position is in accordance with the Higher Education Ordinance (chapter 12, 2§) and the decision regarding the position cannot be appealed. As we strive for a more balanced gender distribution within the department, we encourage women as applicants.

For additional information, please contact Assoc. Prof. Kai-Florian Richter

Umeå University is dedicated to providing creative environments for learning and work. We offer a wide variety of courses and programmes, world leading research, and excellent innovation and collaboration opportunities. More than 4 300 employees and 31 500 students have already chosen Umeå University.

We look forward to receiving your application!



- Kai-Florian Richter, Senior Lecturer, +46 90 786 6831

This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess