PhD position action and intention understanding from videos

Are you interested in performing high-end research in artificial intelligence, computer vision and deep learning? And are you eager to perform this research at two European research institutes? We are looking for a PhD candidate to investigate the problem of automatically understanding actions and their underlying intentions from videos.

Within video-based computer vision, things are moving fast. We are quickly gaining the ability recognize, what, when, and where actions occur in long videos. One question remains open: why do actions occur? The ability to look beyond action labels will allow us to gain a deeper understanding of what is occurring in videos and enable long-term future anticipation. Addressing this open question requires novel contributions in both computer vision and deep learning. Notable keys include using hierarchical knowledge about actions [1] and reasoning about futures in videos [2].

A unique selling point of this fully-funded position is that it is sponsored by the ELLIS unit Amsterdam. ELLIS (European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems) is a European initiative to foster top research in Artificial Intelligence. As such, this position involves supervision from two researchers; dr. Pascal Mettes at the University of Amsterdam and prof. Rita Cucchiara from the University of Modena, Italy. The position itself will be at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), but the PhD is a joint collaboration and one year in total will be spent at the University of Modena to get the most out of the joint project.

[1] T. Long, P. Mettes, H.T. Shen, and C.G.M. Snoek. "Searching for Actions on the Hyperbole." CVPR. 2020.

[2] A. Monti, A. Bertugli, S. Calderara, and R. Cucchiara. "Dag-net: Double attentive graph neural network for trajectory forecasting." arXiv. 2020.

What are you going to do?

You are expected to:

  • invent and implement novel pipelines that enable video-based intention understanding;
  • actively collaborate with researchers from two international institutes;
  • spend at least one year at the University of Modena;
  • pursue and complete a PhD thesis within the appointed duration of four years;
  • present research results at international conferences and journals;
  • assist in teaching activities such as lab assistance and student supervision.


  • A Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Mathematics, or a closely related field;
  • a strong scientific and mathematical background in deep learning, with an emphasis on deep learning for videos and geometric deep learning;
  • good programming skills, experience with Python and deep learning toolkits are preferred;
  • a collaborative mindset;
  • a good academic record and eagerness to tackle core scientific problems;
  • fluency in English, both written and spoken.

Our offer

We offer a temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years). This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and Master students.

The salary will be €2,395 to €3,061 (scale P) gross per month, based on a fulltime contract (38 hours a week). This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look here.

University of Amsterdam

With over 5,000 employees, 30,000 students and a budget of more than 600 million euros, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is an intellectual hub within the Netherlands. Teaching and research at the UvA are conducted within seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Law, Science, Medicine and Dentistry. Housed on four city campuses in or near the heart of Amsterdam, where disciplines come together and interact, the faculties have close links with thousands of researchers and hundreds of institutions at home and abroad.

The UvA’s students and employees are independent thinkers, competent rebels who dare to question dogmas and aren’t satisfied with easy answers and standard solutions. To work at the UvA is to work in an independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterised by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society.

Faculty of Science - Informatics Institute

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

The mission of the Informatics Institute is to perform curiosity-driven and use-inspired fundamental research in Computer Science. The main research themes are Artificial Intelligence, Computational Science and Systems and Network Engineering. Our research involves complex information systems at large, with a focus on collaborative, data driven, computational and intelligent systems, all with a strong interactive component.

Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact:

Dr Pascal Mettes, Assistant Professor
T: +31 (0)20 525 8735

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