PhD Position in Communicating with and Relating to Social Robots
VU University of Amsterdam Faculty of Social Sciences

If you want to take on this challenge and be part of an exciting team working at the forefront of communicating with social robots, please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.


FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

Testing communication skills of social robots interacting with humans in establishing a social-affective bond through experiments and field studies. This in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team (media psychology, computational linguistics, AI), building and investigating computational robot models that dynamically personalize communication to make it more efficient and to establish affective bonding of people with robots.

Your duties

Test adaptive communication models implemented in social robots within specific social contexts to answer the following research question: How can human-robot communication support socio-affective bonding between humans and robots? Carry out your research according to international standards resulting in a PhD dissertation, make your research and experiments publicly available and reproducible, such as through yearly publications in A or B ranked academic journals, conference proceedings, and brief reports accessible to the public at large. Thereby following the principles of Open Science.


  • completed (Research) Master degree in Communication Science (Media Psychology), Psychology (Social or Cognitive Psychology), or Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence)
  • knowledge of and experience with empirical (field or experimental) studies and research designs
  • advanced statistical and analytical skills
  • excellent academic writing skills, and proper understanding of the scientific debate on social robots and related (psychological and mediated) processes
  •  affinity with programming in R or Python, computational techniques and Natural Language Processing
  •  mastery of both Dutch and English language skills

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved and highly interdisciplinary organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts to €2,325 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a total duration of 4 years (or 5 years in case of a 0.8 fte contract). Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:  

  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

Faculty of Social Sciences
The Faculty of Social Sciences examines the major social problems of our time from multiple perspectives. From bullying at school to dealing with transnational immigration, from the rise of populist politicians to creating a self-reliant society. Only at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam you will find all the academic disciplines needed to understand these 'wicked problems': alongside the traditional disciplines such as sociology, anthropology and politics, we also research and teach the new social sciences such as communication science and management & organization science. We do not settle for easy answers in our teaching and research. Our researchers and students are critical thinkers and doers who work together to devise surprising solutions to the problems of today.

Working at the Faculty of Social Sciences means working with colleagues from a range of academic disciplines in an inspiring and personal work and study environment with excellent research facilities. We employ more than 250 staff members, and we are home to around 2,500 students.

About the project
There is a lot of talk about robots taking part in our lives but little is known about how to build robots that can talk to us to create a social bond and to become friends. This NWO-granted project “Communicating with and Relating to Social Robots” is looking for an ambitious and highly-motivated PhD student that wants to work on our robot project. Our robot uses communication to learn about ourselves and the world but she also needs to develop a personalized language to build relationships with others. Through our social-affective bonds and shared experiences, robots can be enabled to communicate more efficiently and vice versa.  In this project, two PhD-candidates work together with a postdoc and the supervisory team as well as with related researchers. The current PhD vacancy focuses on affective bonding through robot communication in various social contexts (e.g., lonely elderly).

The research is embedded in the department of Communication Science (Department Communication Science), the Media Psychology Program (Media Psychology ProgramResearch, Elly Konijn, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam ), and the Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab (; also see: Supervisors are Prof. dr. Elly A. Konijn,  Prof. dr. Piek Vossen, and prof. dr. Johan F. Hoorn. They are international key players in the field of social robotics and have won several prestigious prizes honoring their work (e.g., Spinoza, Eureka, Huibregtsen prizes from KNAW/NWO). Their research is also connected to embedded the VU-gravity project on Hybrid Intelligence: The Hybrid Intelligence Centre ( You will collaborate with many researchers on key notions such as collaborative, explainable, adaptable, and responsible AI and be part of a substantial group of international researchers working on social robots for social communication.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until April 10, 2021. The job interviews will take place online from April 13, 2021 - April 15, 2021, when possible please take them into account when applying for the position. Preferred starting date is May 1, 2021.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: prof. dr. Elly A. Konijn
Position: Full Professor
Telephone: +31 20 598 7101 / +31 20 598 7601 (secretariat)

No agencies

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Socioloxy


All Jobs


Harvard University Academic Positions

Kuwait University Current Faculty Openings

Osaka University Academic Opportunities

Purdue University Job Postings for Faculty Positions

Texas Tech University Faculty Openings

Tsinghua University Job Postings

University of Cambridge Job Openings

University of Geneva Faculty Opportunities

University of New South Wales Job Openings

University of Nottingham Research Positions

University of Oslo Academic Jobs

University of Saskatchewan Faculty Positions

University of Southampton Research Vacancies

University of Tokyo Current Academic Vacancies

University of Toronto Open Faculty Positions