PhD position in Causal Discovery

 Causal inference is the part of statistics and machine learning that deals with cause-effect relations. Knowing these relations makes it possible to predict what will happen when some change is made to a system. In many scientific fields and domains of application, we would want to learn the causal relations from data: causal discovery. Despite recent advances, there is still a lot of work to be done on this highly challenging, highly relevant problem.

Some of the challenges that you may work on include:

  • developing a theory of which causal structures we can hope to distinguish from each other based on data. Even for the seemingly simple linear case, no such complete theory is known, though algebraic geometry provides a starting point;
  • devising causal discovery algorithms that balance speed of execution with optimality guarantees;
  • leveraging generative deep learning architectures to learn causal relations, while at the same time quantifying the uncertainty about these relations.

This is a fully funded five-year position. It consists of 70% research and 30% teaching, so you will also be involved in supporting the preparation and teaching of Bachelor- and Master-level courses and in supervising student theses.


We are looking for a candidate with perseverance and enthusiasm for scientific research. You also have

  • a Master’s degree in Computer Science, Mathematics, Artificial Intelligence, or a related field;
  • a solid background in the theory of machine learning or statistical learning — familiarity with causal inference or algebraic geometry is considered a plus;
  • strong mathematical skills;
  • demonstrated programming skills;
  • excellent communication skills in English, both in speech and in writing.


  • A position for 5 years;
  • A full-time gross salary that starts at €2,541 and increases to €3,247 per month (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (CAO));
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • A pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions 
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     based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

For more information, please visit working at the Faculty of Science. 

 can be found here.

About the organisation

The Department of Information and Computing Sciences 

 is nationally and internationally renowned for its research in Computing Science and Information Science. Relevant areas of interdisciplinary research include Artificial Intelligence, Game Research, Foundations of Complex Systems, Applied Data Science and Integrative Bioinformatics. The department works, among others, closely with the University Medical Center, the Departments of Physics and Mathematics, and the Faculties of Humanities and Geosciences.

At the Faculty of Science 

, there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities. We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our informal atmosphere and the can-do mentality of our people. This lively and inspiring academic environment attracts professors, researchers and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the University and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international and wonderfully diverse community.

Additional information

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact dr. Thijs van Ommen 

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Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to 



Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the “Apply now” button! Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your Curriculum Vitae;
  • the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of two references;
  • a copy of your MSc certificate;
  • transcripts showing grades obtained on your bachelor and master courses.

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them. 

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them 

The application deadline is 29 August 2022.

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