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Full-time PhD student in AI - Computational construction grammar and procedural semantics for multi-modal, linguistic, human-machine interaction (ARIAC project)

University faculty : Computer science
Grade : researcher
Contract : fixed term contract
Category : scientific personnel
Allocation : External funds



ARIAC by DigitalWallonia4.ai is a research project funded by the Walloon Region bringing together the five French-speaking universities and four Walloon research centers with the primary objective of accelerating the development of artificial intelligence technologies in Wallonia. The project is part of the TRAIL (Trusted AI Labs) initiative, launched in September 2020, which aims at enhancing the development of artificial intelligence technologies in Wallonia.

Job description

Current techniques for linguistic human-machine interaction focus on either speech signals, textual data or gestures. However, communication between humans is multi-modal in nature. In particular, spoken utterances are accompanied by gestures, pointing, eye gaze, facial expressions, and prosody amongst others. These multi-modal channels are of great importance to supporting the basic function of language, i.e. exchanging information between individuals. A great challenge for human-machine interaction resides thus in the integration of multi-modal signals into a single device for comprehending and producing natural language expressions. Within the ARIAC project, we will develop a novel methodology for multi-modal language comprehension and production. This methodology will be situated within the framework of computational construction grammar, a family of linguistic theories which is well-suited to accommodate the representation and processing of linguistic knowledge that combines different sources of information. While the representation of the form of linguistic expressions will consist in abstractions over data captured through different feature channels, the representation of the meaning of linguistic expressions will be formalised using procedural semantics. In this way, the information captured in the multi-modal linguistic expressions can be executed by a machine, or a machine can produce multi-modal expressions based on procedural semantic representations. The primary application domain of this research will be systems for multi-modal human-machine interaction, i.e. systems where humans can give instructions to a machine by simultaneously speaking and gesturing. You will carry out this PhD project both individually and in collaboration with other researchers in the field. It is conceived as a 4-year program, starting with a 2-year contract that is renewable for up to 2 additional years. You will be supervised by Prof. dr. K. Beuls and Prof. dr. B. Dumas.


Job Requirement

  • You have obtained a master’s degree in artificial intelligence, computer science, linguistics, mathematics or a related domain. You have a solid academic track record ;
  • You are passionate about building intelligent systems that are capable of interacting with their users and environment through natural language ;
  • You strive for excellence and have a scientific mindset ;
  • You are a loyal team player, who can work autonomously and deliver solid scientific work ;
  • You have strong communication skills and a good command of English. Knowledge of French is considered as a plus.

Additional information

For additional information please do not hesitate to contact:

• K. BEULS - contact: katrien.beuls@unamur.be

•B. DUMAS - contact: bruno.dumas@unamur.be

About the employer

The University of Namur (UNamur) is located in the center of Belgium, in the French-speaking part of the country. It offers quality education to more than 7,000 students every year and hosts more than 900 researchers in all fields of expertise. The Faculty of Computer Science provides cutting-edge teaching and research, intending to put computers at the service of society, taking account of their impact on the environment and respecting the values of solidarity and sustainable development. The Faculty is a founding member of the Namur Digital Institute (NADI), which groups together over 150 researchers in digital technology. It has a multi-disciplinary approach and addresses, in particular, the issues and challenges of computer science in organizations and society. The Faculty of Computer Science has over 400 students, 80 members of staff, including 18 professors and around 50 researchers. Founded in 1968, the Faculty has trained over 1,800 high-level computer science graduates since then.


How to apply

Applications should be sent by e-mail to secretariat.info@unamur.be and contain the following:

• a motivation letter describing the interest in the research topic ;

• a recent CV ;

• a copy of diplomas (Bachelor and Master, if available);

• a transcript with the grades obtained for each course you took on each university year ;

• the name and e-mail address of two reference person to be contacted upon request.

Note: Soon to be graduating master students are welcome to apply provided that they will have graduated before the start of the position. Candidates that already hold a PhD degree are not eligible.

Please, indicate in the subject “PhD student application Multi-modal interaction”

A dedicated selection committee will examine applications.

Important dates

Submission deadline: July 1st, 2022 (11h59 pm AoE)

Expected starting date: September 1st, 2022

The human resources management policy of the University of Namur is based on respect for equal rights and equal treatment for all. This diversity is articulated around different axes, including gender, disability, origin, beliefs, age, sexual orientation, etc. The University of Namur is also a signatory of the charter of diversity.