PhD Student: Linguistic competence of language models in prompt interpretation and text generation

The IT University of Copenhagen invites highly motivated individuals to apply for a PhD position starting 1 September 2024 or soon thereafter. 

The IT University’s vision is to create and share knowledge that is profound and leads to groundbreaking information technology and services for the benefit of humanity. The Computer Science Department seeks to conduct research and education that are both foundational and have impact on industry and society.

Job description
Recent generative systems based on pre-trained language models are remarkably fluent when generating even relatively exotic kinds of text, such as lymericks or texts in early middle English. At the same time, they remain sensitive to slight variation in the wording of the prompts.

The proposed project will investigate this difference in competence for different linguistic phenomena when the model interprets its instructions (prompts) and generates text in response to prompts. The specific focus is negotiable, it could be syntactic constructions, variations in lexical semantics, text registers etc. Model competence will be assessed with respect to analysis of its pre-training data (hence, an open-source model will be used).

The ideal candidate would have a strong background in computational linguistics, as well as core skills in programming in Python and machine learning.

The research environment
The candidate will be a member of the national Pioneer Centre for Artificial Intelligence, a 5-university Danish research endeavor, and of the NLPnorth research group at the IT University’s Computer Science Department. Both the centre and research group are highly international and well-funded, working on a broad range of research topics.

The supervisors for the project are Associate professors Anna Rogers and Rob van der Goot.

General information
The IT University of Copenhagen (ITU) is a teaching and research-based tertiary institution concerned with information technology (IT) and the opportunities it offers. The IT University has more than 160 full-time Faculty members. Research and teaching in information technology span all academic activities which involve computers including computer science, information and media sciences, humanities and social sciences, business impact and the commercialization of IT.

About the Computer Science Department
The ITU Computer Science Department conducts research in all aspects of computer science and data science, including algorithms, databases, government IT, machine learning, natural language processing, network science, optimization, programming languages, quantum computing, robotics, security, semantics, software engineering, software verification, type theory, and more, as well as a range of applications. The department has 55 permanent faculty, 65 PhDs and postdocs, as well as other staff. It is responsible for the IT University's most technical education programs BSc Software Development, BSc Data Science, MSc Computer Science, MSc Data Science, and MSc Software Design.

Working at the IT University
Located in modern architecture, a 6-minute metro ride from the center of Copenhagen, the IT University offers an informal working environment, a varied everyday life, and a highly motivated, ambitious, competent, and diverse international faculty, with PhD degrees from 17 different countries. The IT University is an equal opportunity employer and prides itself in actively and successfully pursuing an improved gender balance among students and among faculty.

Working in Copenhagen
Copenhagen has a solid educational system, a rich cultural life, universal healthcare, good childcare, and well-functioning infrastructure. Copenhagen is among the world’s most livable cities according to the Economist Global Liveability Index. Living and working in Copenhagen will be a good experience for you and your family.

Salary and terms of employment
Appointment and salary will be in accordance with the Ministry of Taxation’s agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (AC) and job structure for academic staff at Universities.


Qualification Requirements
The following qualifications are required:

  • 3-year programme: candidates should have a MSc (or equivalent)


The application and all other documents ought to be in English and must include:

  • A motivated application (cover letter), including a detailed description of your qualifications
  • A statement of purpose, which provides evidence of independent thinking, novelty and originality, of the targeted research field matching the project description
  • A full CV, including name, address, phone number, e-mail, previous and present employment and academic background
  • Documentation of academic degrees (copy of degree certificates etc.)
  • Relevant scientific publication or/and master thesis written by the applicant

Applications without the above-mentioned required documents will not be assessed.               

The applicant will be accessed according to the Appointment Order from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of 13 March 2012.

The IT University may use shortlisting in connection to the recruitment process. In case of shortlisting, the Chair of the hiring committee selects applicants for assessment in consultation with the hiring committee after the application deadline. All applicants are notified whether their application has been passed for assessment. The shortlisting of candidates for assessment is based on the criteria in the job posting.

Further information
Questions about the positions can be directed to Associate Professor, Christian Hardmeier, IT University of Copenhagen, Early contact with our faculty staff is encouraged. 

Questions related to the application procedure may be directed to HR,

Application procedure
You can apply for this position through our e-recruitment system. Apply by pressing the button "Apply for position" in the job announcement on our website.

Please read the guidelines for applicants carefully before filling in the application form. You can see the guidelines through this link.

The IT University might upon request in the interview process contact 1-2 references.

Please note that all application material will be destroyed after the assessment.

Application deadline: 15 April 2024, at 23:59 CEST.

Applications/enclosures received at ITU after the application deadline will not be taken into consideration. If you submit an application, it is your responsibility to ensure that it arrives before the deadline so please allow sufficient time for upload of publications and other documents.

The IT University invites all qualified researchers regardless of age, gender, religious affiliation or ethnic background to apply for the positions.

IT University of Copenhagen, Rued Langgaards Vej 7, DK-2300 Copenhagen S

The IT University of Copenhagen (ITU) was established in 1999 and is Denmark’s leading university focusing on IT research and education. We deliver state-of-the-art teaching and research within computer science, business IT and digital design.

Our ambition is to create and share knowledge that is profound and leads to ground-breaking information technology and services for the benefit of humanity.

The university collaborates closely with industry, the public sector and international researchers and is characterized by a strong entrepreneurial spirit among students as well as researchers.

ITU’s modern campus in central Copenhagen is designed by the world-renowned Danish architect Henning Larsen.

ITU in numbers

  • 2600 students
  • 310 staff members (full-time equivalent)

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