[Comp-neuro] Several fully funded PhD positions at Ghent University

Benjamin Schrauwen Benjamin.Schrauwen at elis.UGent.be
Fri Jan 9 14:43:12 CET 2009

Several fully funded Ph.D. positions in machine learning, speech  
recognition, handwriting recognition and robotics are available at the  
Reservoir Lab (http://reslab.elis.ugent.be) and the Speech Lab  
(http://speech.elis.ugent.be), both part of the Electronics and  
Information Systems Department, faculty of Engineering of the Ghent  
University, Belgium (http://ugent.be).

Current state-of-the-art speech & handwriting recognition systems  
still perform much worse than human beings who can effortlessly decode  
the speech or handwriting of most people, even in fairly adverse  
conditions (e.g. the presence of noise in case of speech recognition).  
The fact that the human brain works so efficiently is owed to its  
self-organizing capacity, its deeply hierarchical approach, its  
adoption of unsupervised and supervised learning strategies, its  
capacity to adapt almost instantly to new circumstances, etc. Why not  
try to build an automatic speech recognizer and handwriting  
recognition engine that incorporates the same principles? This is  
exactly what we will do in two recently approved projects:

* "Self-organized Recurrent Neural Learning for Language Processing"  
(ORGANIC), funded by the European Commission within the 7th Framework  
Program. Details about the project can be found at the preliminary  
reservoir computing website (http://reservoir-computing.org).
* "Reservoir Computing for auditory pattern recognition" (RECAP),  
funded by the Research Program of the Research Foundation - Flanders  

The research concerns the investigation of architectures and  
algorithms for the efficient learning of large recurrent neural  
networks based on the Reservoir Computing concept (where only a linear  
readout layer is learned in a supervised way whereas the recurrent  
connections are fixed or trained in an unsupervised way). Important  
research topics are the unsupervised learning of a large hierarchy of  
recurrent sub-layers, and the integration of various adaptation  
techniques. The application domains are off-line handwriting  
recognition, speech recognition and various aspects of robotics (such  
as robot localization, motion control, ...). So far we were able to  
demonstrate that reservoirs can give rise to the robust recognition of  
digits spoken or written in isolation, but now we want to demonstrate  
that they can also yield robust recognition of continuous speech and  
handwriting (large vocabulary).

Candidates should have a Masters degree in Electrical, Computer or  
Physics Engineering; or in Physics, Mathematics or Computer Science. A  
good knowledge of English is essential. No professional background is  
required, but the ideal candidates have some acquaintance with Machine  
Learning, programming (Python, Matlab, ...), statistics, signal  
processing, speech recognition, control engineering, or robotics.

What we offer
We offer an opportunity to perform at least three years of research in  
a new promising domain, and to get a doctoral degree in this domain.  
There will be ample opportunities for establishing international  
contacts (stays at partner universities, participation to  
international conferences). As an employee of the university you will  
receive a competitive salary (starting with a net monthly salary of  
approximately 1.600?) as well as excellent secondary benefits (holiday  
allowance, etc.). Belgium was ranked first on the ?Best Countries for  
Academic Research? worldwide list (The Scientist, 2007), and Ghent  
University was appointed second place on the ?Best Places to Work in  
Academia? non-US list (The Scientist, 2006).

Application and timing
If you are interested in one of the Ph.D. vacancies, please send in  
electronic format to Benjamin Schrauwen (Benjamin "dot" Schrauwen "at"  
UGent "dot" be): a detailed curriculum vitae, a motivation letter,  
your course program, your grades, two letters of recommendation and,  
if applicable, a publication list and selected publications. Do also  
mention your topics of preferences within the projects (e.g. robotics,  
speech, no preference, etc.). Some positions start on April 1, 2009,  
others in September 2009, meaning that persons who expect to graduate  
in July 2009 are welcome to apply. Applications which are received  
before February 1, 2009 get priority.

With kind regards,

Benjamin Schrauwen and Jean-Pierre Martens

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