2 PhD positions

UPDATE: the positions are no longer available.

In the NWO project Searchx: Integrating search and sensemaking into large-scale open online learning I have two fully-funded 4-year PhD positions at the Delft University of Technology. Application deadline: June 15, 2018 (the advert will remain accessible until the positions are filled).

Project description

In 2011, the MOOC revolution began. Today, Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) are being offered by many world-renowned universities, reaching millions of learners. Learning though is a complex process. Research endeavours have began to investigate how to enable active learning in MOOCs, a challenging task due to the learners’ diversity and the extremely skewed learner-staff ratio. These conditions make peer learning a necessity: MOOC learners learn from each other, with little intervention from instructors.

One important and so far completely neglected aspect of online learning is search (retrieving information) and sensemaking (making sense of information): learners turn to the Web seeking additional information, and over time create mental representations of the material. However, Web search engines today are not built to support users in the type of complex searches often required in learning situations. The SearchX project brings together the - so far widely disparate - fields of learning at scale and information retrieval in a mutually beneficial manner. SearchX has two goals:

  1. to significantly increase learners’ engagement and success in massive open online learning through the tight coupling of search and learning in the SearchX framework (e.g. through converesational search, automatic question generation); and
  2. to significantly increase our understanding of complex search tasks which at this point in time is highly fragmented through the deployment of a battery of large-scale and longitudinal experiments exploring the main facets that define complex search tasks in the learning scenario.

TU Delft is one of the largest MOOC providers in Europe whose courses have attracted nearly two million learners so far. Conducting this project at TU Delft thus has the potential for significant and wide-ranging practical impact.

The envisioned starting date is September 2018 (though negotiation of another starting date is possible).

The project is led and supervised by myself.


We are looking for two candidates, one with a strong focus on information retrieval/NLP and one with a strong focus on machine learning/data science, with the following profile:

  • MSc in Computer Science, or a related field (including Applied Mathematics, Computer Engineering, Computational Linguistics);
  • followed MSc courses and have research experience (e.g. at Master thesis level) in the at least some of the following areas: information retrieval, natural language processing, machine learning (in particular deep learning - we have a GPU cluster on standby!), dialogue systems, and human computer interaction;
  • enjoy research and are self-motivated;
  • are team players;
  • have excellent communication skills in English.


For more information, please contact Dr. Claudia Hauff at [c.hauff@tudelft.nl]. To apply, please email your application by June 15, 2018 to Claudia Hauff with the subject [SearchX PhD].

The application should consist of the following:

  • an explanation of your interest in the proposed research field;
  • a curriculum vitae;
  • copies of diplomas and other relevant certificates;
  • a list of courses attended and corresponding grades;
  • names and contact details of two references.

Conditions of employment

For the position at TU Delft we offer a full-time, fixed-term employment for a period of four years. The monthly salary is in accordance with the collective labour agreement of Dutch universities (salary scales P0 to P3). TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount for health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. More information about the terms and conditions at TU Delft is available.

As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment; an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor; and a Doctoral Education Programme aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

Working at TU Delft

The position is offered within the Web Information Systems (WIS) group, located at the Software Technology (ST) department at TU Delft. TU Delft is a multifaceted institution offering education and carrying out research in the technical sciences at an internationally recognised level.

The ST department is one of the leading Dutch departments in research and academic education in computer science, employing over 150 people. The inspiration for its research topics is largely derived from technical ICT problems in industry and society related to large-scale distributed processing, embedded systems, programming productivity, and Web-based information analysis.

The WIS group concentrates in its research on engineering and science of the Web. The section is an internationally leading research group in Web-based systems, with WIS researchers and students striving to advance the state of the art in relevant disciplines like information retrieval, data science, Web data management, crowdsourcing and analytics. A part of WIS is the Lambda-Lab: several WIS researchers working together and with external partners to push the boundaries of data- and technology-driven research for massive open online learning. Both PhD positions are located within Lambda-Lab.