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Research Associate: How to (re)represent it? (Fixed Term)

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available until 30 September 2019.

The University of Cambridge is looking to appoint an enthusiastic researcher to join this project concerned with exploring and computationally modelling how people choose and use representations for problems that they are solving. The project is entitled "How to (re)represent it?" and is led by Dr Mateja Jamnik. It runs jointly with Prof Peter Cheng at the University of Sussex. This EPSRC funded project is part of the EPSRC new and emerging area in ICT on Human-like Computing and AI.

The aim of this project is to identify and study how humans represent information that they want to work with and from which they will obtain new knowledge. Humans have the capability to choose the representation that is just right for them to enable them to solve a new problem, and moreover, if the representation needs to be changed, they can spot this and change it. Unlike humans, machines in general have fixed representations and do not have an understanding of the user. For example, sat-nav systems will only give directions with elementary spatial commands or route planning functions, whereas humans give directions in many forms, for instance in terms of landmarks or other geographic features that are based on shared knowledge.

We want to model in computational systems this inherently human ability to choose or change appropriate representations, and make machines do the same. We want to find out what are the cognitive processes that humans use to select representations, what criteria they use to choose them, and how we can model this ability on machines. The project objectives include:

  1. Collect a corpus of problems and candidate representations to study and categorise their cognitive and formal properties.

  2. Devise coding schemes and conduct cognitive studies to identify cognitive and formal properties that people use in choosing representations. Develop cognitive theories based on these experiments.

  3. Design and implement computational algorithms that allow users to choose alternative representations. Build a ranking and recommendation system based on the taxonomy from cognitive studies to suggest appropriate representation given a particular problem and user.

  4. Evaluate the utility of the system and generalise the approach to other domains outside of mathematics. Investigate how to apply our cognitive and computational models in education in the form of AI tutors that are adaptable to users.

The successful candidate employed at Cambridge will be expected to make significant contributions to the objective 3 (stream 1, led by Cambridge), as well as to the objectives 1 and 4 (joint with the University of Sussex). The full project proposal details are attached, as well as further information about the role.

The ideal candidate for this position should: * have a strong background in several of: diagrammatic reasoning, theorem proving, logic, ontology engineering, mathematics, artificial intelligence; * have experience in designing formal logical representations, and implementing and evaluating reasoning systems; * have a PhD in Computer Science or Engineering (or be very close to submitting their PhD) and have a strong publication record; * have good communication and team working skills to collaborate with cognitive scientists; * be prepared to travel frequently between the Universities of Cambridge and Sussex for group meetings for which overnight trips are envisaged (funded by the grant).

Informal enquiries may be directed to Dr Mateja Jamnik: (

Start date: 1 April 2018.

The deadline for receipt of applications is midnight on Monday 12th February 2018. Interviews will take place shortly after, either in person or by telephone.

To apply online for this vacancy, please click on the 'Apply' button below. This will route you to the University's Web Recruitment System, where you will need to register an account (if you have not already) and log in before completing the online application form.

Please ensure you upload your curriculum vitae; a statement of the particular contribution you would like to make to the project (maximum 500 words); a description (max 1 page of A4) of the research project you are most proud of and your contribution to it; a transcript of your university grades; and a cover letter with details of your visa status and earliest possible starting date. If you upload any additional documents which have not been requested, we will not be able to consider these as part of your application.

Please quote reference NR14483 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

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Further information

Apply online