PhD position – Using AI to facilitate communication between deaf and hearing people

Gent - PhD
Meer dan twee weken geleden

You will research and develop solutions for video-based recognition and translation of sign language, using techniques from machine learning, deep learning and language technology.



IDLab is a research group of UGent, as well as a core research group of imec.  IDLab performs fundamental and applied research on data science and internet technology, and counts over 300 researchers.  Our major research areas are machine learning and data mining; semantic intelligence; multimedia processing; distributed intelligence for IoT; cloud and big data infrastructures; wireless and fixed networking; electromagnetics, RF and high-speed circuits and systems. In particular, the group has been studying various kinds of neural networks for more than 20 years. It has been at the forefront of deep learning research ever since it became popular a decade ago. Illustrative of this success are an excellent track record at Kaggle competitions and the fact that four of our former PhD students are now working at Google’s Deepmind and one at Google Brain.

What you will do

In a recently completed PhD thesis, the difficult problem of interpreting Flemish sign language with deep learning was explored for the first time. This interdisciplinary project was a collaboration between experts in deep learning at IDLab and linguists specializing in Flemish sign language. Although very valuable first steps were made, the results are still far from being useable in practice for facilitating communication between Flemish non-signers and signers.
In order to bring this research to the level where it becomes really useful, e.g., where it can be integrated in a smart-phone app, several technological hurdles still need to be taken. Given the recent progress in the field of machine learning and deep learning, we believe the time is ripe to achieve this. For this reason, we are looking for an excellent PhD student who is highly motivated to bring this AI-based technology to the users.
You will collaborate with enthusiastic colleagues at IDLab, linguists who specialize in (Flemish) sign language, and the Flemish deaf community. You will research and develop solutions for video-based recognition and translation of individual signs as well as sign language, using state-of-the art techniques from machine learning, deep learning and language technology. You will be encouraged to publish and present your work at international conferences, or to attend useful summer schools.

What we do for you

We offer a fully funded PhD scholarship for a maximal period of 4 years (upon positive progress evaluation). The PhD research has fundamental and innovative aspects, but also a clear application target. You will join a young and enthusiastic team of researchers, post-docs and professors. This PhD position is available immediately.

Who you are

  • You have the degree of Master of Science, preferably in Computer Science (engineering), ICT or Informatics
  • Your degree must be equivalent to 4 or 5 years of studies (bachelor + master) in the European Union, you must have a solid academic track record (graduation cum laude or grades in the top 25% percentile)
  • You are eligible for a Flemish PhD scholarship
  • You have knowledge of and experience with machine learning. Having prior experience with deep learning is an asset

Language skills:

  • If you are a hearing person: you are fluent in written and spoken English, you speak and understand Dutch or are willing to learn on short notice, you are willing to learn Flemish sign language
  • If you are a deaf person, you can communicate in Flemish sign language and are sufficiently proficient in written English to be able to follow the state-of-the-art in the relevant domains and publish your results in high impact journals and at conferences

Other skills:

  • You have an applied and pragmatic mindset and are motivated to perform user-driven research in close interaction with the deaf community
  • You are interested in and motivated by the research topic, as well as in obtaining a PhD degree.
  • You are creative, have excellent analytical skills, and can work independently as well as in team.
  • You have good communication skills, you have an open mind and a multi-disciplinary attitude.


Apply with extensive motivation letter, scientific resume, diplomas and detailed academic results (courses and grades), English proficiency scores for candidates with degrees outside the EU, relevant publications (if any), and two reference contacts. Incomplete applications will not be considered!
For any questions, contact prof. dr. ir. Joni Dambre (
After the first screening, suitable candidates will be invited for an interview (also possible via Skype) and may get a skills assignment.


Share this on


Deze website maakt gebruik van cookies met als enige doel het analyseren van surfgedrag, zonder enige commerciële insteek. Lees er hier meer over. Lees ook ons privacy statement. Sommige inhoud (video's, iframes, formulieren,...) op deze website zal pas zichtbaar zijn na het accepteren van de cookies.

Accepteer cookies