Skip to main content

Who does what to whom - Syntactic parsing in man and machine

Project supervisors: Professor Uta Noppeney - School of Psychology

University of registration: University of Birmingham

Non-Academic partner: Bernd Bohnet and Ryan McDonald - Google

Project title: Who does what to whom - Syntactic parsing in man and machine

Project outline:

Language comprehension is critical for interacting effectively in our social world. In order to understand ‘who does what to whom’ in natural language processing, the brain needs to assign a syntactic structure to every sentence – a process coined ‘syntactic parsing’.

This interdisciplinary project will combine expertise from human neuroscience (University of Birmingham) and computational linguistics (Google Research London) to determine the neural mechanisms underlying sentence comprehension in the human brain and advance parsing algorithms in machines. To study natural language processing and the underlying neural mechanisms in humans, we will measure eye movements, behavioural (psychophysics) and electrophysiological responses (EEG), while participants are reading natural sentences from syntactically annotated corpora. We will employ advanced machine learning algorithms to characterize the computational operations and neural mechanisms underlying syntactic processing in the human brain. Conversely, the insights obtained from human neuroimaging (EEG) and eye tracking will provide critical constraints on the parameters and algorithms used in machine learning.

The PhD position is designed to involve a 3 month internship at Google Research London.

The Computational Cognitive Neuroimaging Group (Uta Noppeney) in collaboration with Google Research London (Bernd Bohnet, Ryan McDonald) is seeking an enthusiastic PhD candidate with strong analytical and quantitative abilities. Applicants should have a background in computer science, computational linguistics, neuroscience, psychology, physics or related areas. Prior experience in statistical analysis and/or machine learning would be an advantage.

The Computational Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab is based at the Department of Psychology and the Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics Centre of the University of Birmingham, UK. The centre provides an excellent multidisciplinary, interactive and collaborative research environment combining expertise in cognitive neuroimaging, psychophysics and computational neuroscience. The psychology department was rated 5th in the UK research assessment exercise.

Closing date for applications: 8th January 2017

Check eligibilty and apply here

Please note:

iCASE students must fulfil the MIBTP entry requirements and will join the MIBTP cohort for the taught modules and masterclasses during the first term. iCASE students can then start their PhD project in Jan 2018 but must complete a 3-month miniproject (at a non-home institution) before the end of their first year. They will remain as an integral part of the MIBTP cohort and take part in the core networking activities and transferable skills training. MIBTP iCase.