mardi 27 mars 2012

PhD student - Animal Behaviour/Animal Cognition: Perceptual learning biases in birds

Institute of Biology Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands

The Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) is an international institute for research and education in biology and is part of the Faculty of Science at Leiden University. Our main targets are to perform top quality research, to gain a prominent national and international visibility in both science and society and to maintain outstanding BSc and MSc teaching programs in close relationship to current investigations. One of the research groups is the Behavioural Biology group, which examines many aspects of animal behaviour, in particular in relation to communication and animal cognition. Acoustic and visual signals, in particular those of birds and fish, but also humans and other animals, are important model systems. The PhD student will be based in this group.

Your profile
You will be one of three PhD students in a multidisciplinary team that will do a large scale comparative study on the mechanisms involved in learning about vocal structures in human infants and songbirds (zebra finches). The study is funded by NWO-GW. Together, the three PhD-projects will test how factors such as perceptual biases, computational constraints, memory limitations, etc. influence vocal learning. They will provide insight into whether the mechanisms implied in language learning are linked to more general cognitive mechanisms that may also be present in non-human animals. In this specific PhD-project you will examine the perceptual learning biases in zebra finches by carefully constructed experiments using Go-NoGo, habituation or other experimental procedures. You will address the question what types of patterns the birds are able to detect and whether they can learn and generalize the detected patterns to novel sounds. This project runs parallel to a linguistic one addressing the same questions for human infants and a third one in which computational models are developed to model the processes that may give rise to the observed patterns in birds and infants.

The candidate should have a Master’s degree in biology, or a BSc in biology with an MSc in cognitive neuroscience or equivalent and have a strong interest in interdisciplinary work. You should preferably have experience in research on animal cognition, animal behaviour or cognitive neuroscience. You must be proficient in spoken and written English, have good communication skills and a strong interest in a scientific career.

The PhD student will join the group of professor Dr Carel ten Cate (Behavioural Biology) at the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) at Leiden University. The student will be collaborating closely with the other participants in the project, from the Leiden University Center for Linguistics (LUCL) (Dr. Claartje Levelt), the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC) and the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) (Dr Willem Zuidema) at the University of Amsterdam.

We offer
We offer a vibrant environment to develop on-the-job skills and networks that a successful academic needs.
The appointment will be according to the terms of the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO Nederlandse Universiteiten), for a period of one year with an extension of three years after positive evaluation of capacities and compatibility. Ultimately, the appointment must lead to a completion of a PhD thesis. During your appointment you will be supervised by Carel ten Cate, who will also be your promotor.

The gross monthly salary is set on € 2.042,- in the first year up to € 2612,- in year four. An appointment with Leiden University includes a pension build-up and facilitates other benefits such as an annual holiday premium of 8% and an end-of-year premium of 8.3%.

All our PhD students are embedded in the Leiden University Graduate School of Science This school offers several PhD training courses at three levels: professional courses, skills training and personal effectiveness with in addition, advanced courses to deepen scientific knowledge.

Further information and applications
For a description of the project or other information contact Carel ten Cate
Institute of Biology, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Tel.: (+31)071-527 5040; E-Mail:

Additionally, you can visit the websites of the Faculty of Science and the IBL: and More information on employment at Leiden University can be found at:

Do you identify with the profile above and do you aspire to have a career in research? Please apply by emailing your application before April 15th using the vacancy number, including full Curriculum Vitae and the names and phone numbers of two references to:
Stefanie Klompenhouwer,