4-year PhD position in Automatic Sign Language Processing

University of Zurich
October 20, 2023
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
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Department of Computational Linguistics / Digital Society Initiative

4-year PhD position in Automatic Sign Language Processing

60 % (with option to increase through teaching)

Become a part of cutting-edge research in automatic sign language processing at the University of Zurich.

We are seeking a highly motivated and talented individual to join our research team as a PhD student in the area of natural language processing for sign languages, especially neural machine translation. The successful candidate will work on fundamental technologies for sign languages that will improve the quality of sign language machine translation systems.

The project: The PhD position is part of an innovative research project titled "Fundamental linguistic tools for sign language machine translation - SIGMA" at the Digital Society Initiative and the Department for Computational Linguistics, University of Zurich. SIGMA aims to provide fundamental tools for automatically processing sign languages, with the main goal of improving a higher-level task: sign language machine translation. Improving machine translation for sign languages is relevant for Swiss and international societies. While for hearing persons translation technology is mature and usable in every-day situations, such tools do not exist for Deaf sign language users. Deaf individuals can only be full members of a digital society if translation technology is afforded to them. The project is situated at the intersection between computer science, linguistics and accessibility studies, and therefore is highly interdisciplinary. As a PhD student in this project, you will be part of a vibrant and supportive research environment that values young scholars' research and careers.

The department: The Department of Computational Linguistics conducts research and provides teaching in the domains of computational linguistics, language technology, phonetics and speech signal processing as well as digital linguistics. Employees of the SIGMA project will be affiliated with the "Language Technology for Accessibility" group headed by Dr. Sarah Ebling, which focuses on the contribution of language technology to accessibility for persons with disabilities and special educational needs.

Your responsibilities
  • Develop and improve key language technologies for sign language processing, speficially automatic evaluation metrics for sign language machine translation, segmentation or alignment algorithms, machine translation systems.
  • Write a cumulative doctoral dissertation describing the results, composed of at least three scientific articles.
  • Collaborate with team members and other researchers and institutions.
  • Participate in international conferences and public outreach activities.
  • Supervise student assistants in the project
  • The doctoral project will be co-supervised by Dr. Sarah Ebling and Dr. Mathias Müller.

    Your profile
  • Excellent Master's degree in computational linguistics, computer vision, computer science, AI, or a related discipline
  • Strong programming skills (Python)
  • Theoretical and practical knowledge of machine learning (deep learning) methods, as demonstrated by familiarity with at least one major deep learning framework
  • Experience in computer vision (e.g., image recognition, image segmentation, image generation, video generation); experience in NLP (specifically, machine translation) a plus
  • Proficiency in English (oral and written)
  • Interest in sign languages and sign language linguistics; willingness to engage with the sign language community and to learn at least one sign language
  • Very good communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills
  • What we offer
  • Four-year PhD funding
  • Excellent research conditions (including access to state-of-the-art equipment, infrastructure, and shared facilities) in a highly attractive city
  • Option to apply for the DSI PhD Excellence Program - a highly successful PhD program with graduates at top-rated institutions worldwide
  • Friendly working environment in an enthusiastic team
  • The opportunity to participate in international conferences and workshops
  • Salary in accordance with the regulations of the Swiss National Science Foundation (salary starts at CHF 48'686 per year)
  • Place of work

    Institut für Computerlinguistik, Andreasstrasse, Zürich, Switzerland

    Start of employment

    Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis starting from May 2023 until the position is filled. Please submit your application via the link to the online application tool only. The earliest start date is October 2023.

    Your application should contain a cover letter with your motivation and research interests, CV, academic records, contact information for at least two references, optionally programming samples, optionally writing samples, optionally list of publications.

    Job position: Dr. Mathias Müller (main contact) and Dr. Sarah Ebling. PhD Program: Dr. Sascha Völlmin Department manager: Alexandra Bünzli, lic. phil.

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