PhD Student

Last application date
Jun 15, 2021 00:00
TW06 - Department of Electronics and Information Systems
Limited duration
Master of science in any of the following fields: Computer science (engineering), Artificial intelligence (or similar), Informatics
Occupancy rate
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

PhD position: "From signs to understanding: taking the next steps in sign language translation"

Our offer:
We offer a fully funded PhD scholarship for a maximal period of 4 years (upon positive progress evaluation). The PhD research has fundamental and innovative aspects, but also a clear application target. You will join a young and enthusiastic team of researchers, post-docs and professors. This PhD position is available immediately (and the vacancy will be closed when a suitable candidate has been found).

SignON ( is a user-centric and community-driven European research project that aims to facilitate the exchange of information among deaf and hard of hearing, and hearing individuals across Europe targeting the Irish, British, Dutch, Flemish and Spanish Sign and English, Irish, Dutch, Spanish oral languages.

The AIRO team of IDLab ( has a long history and a current leading position in recognising sign language signs from video. In the SignON project, we want to take the next step and move from sign recognition to actual translation. On the one hand, this means moving from signs to language models and meaning. To achieve this, we will incorporate knowledge about linguistic aspects of sign language (provided by our project partners). One of the main difficulties in this field is the lack of labeled data, so any approach will have to build heavily on unsupervised learning, grounding and transfer.

Working on this project, you will collaborate with enthusiastic colleagues at IDLab, linguists who specialise in sign language, and the deaf community, both in Flanders and with our international partners in the SignON project. You will research and develop solutions aiming at understanding and translating sign language, using state-of-the art techniques from machine learning, deep learning and language technology. You will be encouraged to publish and present your work at international conferences, or to attend useful summer schools.

Job profile

Degree and background:
• You have the degree of Master of Sciencein any of the following fields: Computer science (engineering), Artificial intelligence (or similar), Informatics
• Your degree must be equivalent to 4 or 5 years of studies (bachelor + master) in the European Union, you must have a solid academic track record (graduation cum laude or grades in the top 25% percentile)
• You have knowledge of and experience with deep learning, either in video processing or in language technology
• We particularly encourage candidates who are deaf or hard of hearing to apply. For other candidates, a personal motivation (e.g. a close connection with deaf people) is an asset.

Language skills:
• If you are a hearing person: you are fluent in written and spoken English AND you know or are willing to learn the basics of one of the sign languages targeted by the project
• If you are a deaf person: you can communicate in Flemish sign language and are sufficiently proficient in written English to be able to follow the state-of-the-art in the relevant domains and publish your results in high impact journals and at conferences

Other skills:
• You have an applied and pragmatic mindset and are motivated to perform user-driven research in close interaction with the deaf community
• You are interested in and motivated by the research topic, as well as in obtaining a PhD degree.
• You are creative, have excellent analytical skills, and can work independently as well as in team.
• You have good communication skills, you have an open mind and a multi-disciplinary attitude.

• you are available to start as soon as possible and no later than October 1st

How to apply

Apply to prof. dr. ir. Joni Dambre ( with the following documents:

- extensive motivation letter: specific motivation and specific background relevant for the project! ("generic" applications that do not show sufficient relation to this specific research project will be ignored)
- scientific resume, diplomas and detailed academic results (list of courses and grades),
- English proficiency scores for candidates with degrees outside the EU
- relevant publications (if any)
- two reference contacts (NO reference letters, if necessary, we will contact these persons and ask them for their opinion about you)

Incomplete applications will not be considered!
For any questions, contact prof. dr. ir. Joni Dambre (
After the first screening, suitable candidates will be invited for an interview (also possible via Skype) and will get a skills assignment.

VACANCY WILL BE CLOSED as soon as a suitable candidate has been found.