PhD‘s on Sample-based Planning and Learning, and Computational Social Sciences Amsterdam, Netherlands

Posted 6 months ago

Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) has vacancies in the Intelligent and Autonomous Systems research group for for two talented

PhD students,

on the subjects of sample-based planning, reinforcement learning, explainable AI, and computational social sciences.

Job description

Sometimes, our choices have consequences far beyond our understanding. For example, people from all walks of life are making decisions on how to prepare their homes for a more sustainable future: Through various renovation and retrofitting measures, they may aim at cost savings, lower carbon emissions, higher energy efficiency, or a lower dependence on natural gas. However, most of us do not have deep expertise in the energy field, and are facing barriers when it comes to understanding and committing to such complex and long-term decisions. How do we help people to align their choices with their preferences (e.g., financial incentives, simplicity, fairness, etc.), how do we inform them about the impact of their choices on various criteria – while helping municipalities to engage and motivate citizens to make steps towards gas-free, sustainable homes?

The 4-year NWA-ORC project Align4Energy addresses the overarching research questionHow can we integrate social and behavioural sciences with energy systems research and artificial intelligence in order to jointly optimise and upscale investments in smart clean energy technologies for the residential sector, while ensuring system efficiency and safe operation? To tackle this problem, an interdisciplinary consortium will work towards solutions that bring together theories and models from the social sciences (economics, psychology, game theory, political sciences), humanities, technical sciences (energy systems modelling, computer science, AI and machine learning), as well as stakeholder knowledge.

As a partner in this research consortium, CWI has two PhD vacancies in artificial intelligence which will focus on two main themes:

Position 1 will focus on helping people understand their own choices better. This will be achieved through eliciting their preferences and communicating back the consequences of possible decisions, both in a personalized way, and in the context of other people’s actions (e.g. neighbors, social networks). Relevant research directions include the generalization of preference models from the negotiation literature; multi-agent systems models; and approaches from computational social science, such as discrete choice models.

Position 2 will focus on optimizing the individual decision-making process and guiding people through it. The aim is to provide transparency on a complex, stochastic decision-making process of many agents that are interacting and influencing each other, possibly via multiple (layered) networks. Relevant research directions involve the development of suitable reinforcement learning techniques, sample-based planning (MCTS), as well as the explainability and understandability of such approaches.

Both positions will be able to work with human behavioral models and with technical simulations of energy systems as provided by other consortium partners. Together, we will develop novel methods to better elicit, represent and coordinate multi-stakeholder interests in sequential interactions. We aim at fundamental breakthroughs in societal applications, where human interventions are too costly (in time and money), but autonomous resolution of conflicts of interest is not possible yet with the current state-of-the-art in AI.


Candidates are required to have a Master’s degree in Mathematics, Computer Science or a related discipline, and a specialization in Artificial Intelligence (AI) or related field. Preferable qualifications for candidates include proven research talent, an excellent command of English, and good academic writing and presentation skills.

Terms and conditions

The terms of employment are in accordance with the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement for Research Centres (“CAO-onderzoeksinstellingen”). The initial labour agreement will be for a period of 18 months. After a positive evaluation, the agreement will be extended by 30 months. The gross monthly salary, for a PhD student on a full time basis, is € 2,539 during the first year and increases to €3,253 over the four year period. Employees are also entitled to a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.33%. CWI offers attractive working conditions, including flexible scheduling and help with housing for expat employees.

Please visit our websites for more information about our terms of employment: and​​​​​

Information and application

All applications should include a detailed resume, motivation letter, list of your MSc courses and grades, copy of your Master’s thesis and preferably a list of publications. The application deadline is Wed 31 Aug (23h59 CET).

For residents outside the EER-area, a Toefl English language test might be required.

For more information about the vacancy, please contact Eric Pauwels, email

For more information about CWI, please visit or watch our video about working at CWI.

Diversity code

CWI encourages a diverse workforce: we endeavour to develop talent and creativity by bringing people from different backgrounds and cultures together. We recruit and select based on capabilities and talent. We strongly encourage everyone with the appropriate qualifications to apply for the vacancy, regardless of age, gender, origin, sexual orientation or physical abilities.

About CWI

Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) is the Dutch national research institute for mathematics and computer science and is an institute of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The mission of CWI is to conduct pioneering research in mathematics and computer science, generating new knowledge in these fields and conveying it to trade, industry, and society at large. CWI is an internationally oriented institute, with 160 scientists from approximately 30 countries. The facilities are first-rate and include excellent IT support, career planning, training, and courses. CWI is located at Amsterdam Science Park which is home to one of the largest concentrations of beta science in Europe. A melting pot of innovation. Companies looking to collaborate can work together with brilliant students, scientists and fellow entrepreneurs. Collectively they develop revolutionary solutions for today’s issues and tomorrow’s challenges.

About Research group

To find more information about the group, please visit the group page.

Job Features

Job CategoryDoctorat

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