ERC-Funded PhD and Postdoc positions in Artificial Intelligence and Meta-Learning

The IT University of Copenhagen invites highly motivated individuals to apply for a ERC-funded Postdoc and PhD positions starting in 1 April 2023 or soon thereafter. Later start dates can also be considered.

Job description

The positions are funded as part of the GROW-AI project, a 5-year European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant awarded to Sebastian Risi. The PhD positions are full-time positions for 3 years (starting from an MSc or equivalent) or 4 years (starting from a BSc). The postdoc positions are full-time positions funded for an initial period of 2 years, with potential extensions for up to a total of 4 years.

The project: Growing Machines Capable of Rapid Learning in Unknown Environments

Despite major advances in the field of artificial intelligence, especially in the field of neural networks, these systems still pale in comparison to even simple biological intelligence. Current machine learning systems take many trials to learn, lack common-sense, and often fail even if the environment only changes slightly. In stark contrast to current neural networks, whose architectures are designed by human experts and whose large number of parameters are optimized directly, evolution does not operate directly on the parameters of biological nervous systems. Instead, these nervous systems are grown and self-organize through a much smaller genetic program that produces rich behavioral capabilities right from birth and the ability to rapidly learn. Neuroscience suggests this “genomic bottleneck” is an important regularizing constraint, allowing animals to generalize to new situations. The goal in GROW-AI is to learn such genomic bottleneck algorithms, and in addition, co-optimize task generators that provide the agents with the most effective learning environments. Taking inspiration from the fields of artificial life, neurobiology, and machine learning, we will investigate if algorithmic growth is needed to understand and create intelligence.

The candidate should have experience in some of the following topics:

  • Deep RL / meta-learning / continual learning
  • Neuroevolution / evolutionary algorithms
  • Indirect encodings such as Hypernetworks
  • Neurobiology / systems neuroscience / neurogenetics
  • Evolutionary developmental biology
  • Procedural content generation

Research environment

The candidates will work together with Sebastian Risi ( and join the Creative AI ( and Robotics, Evolution, and Art Lab (REAL) ( aim is to build a diverse team. All applications are welcome, especially those from members of underrepresented groups are encouraged.

We’re also recruiting through the ELLIS PhD program (

General information

The IT University of Copenhagen (ITU) is a teaching and research-based tertiary institution concerned with information technology (IT) and the opportunities it offers. The IT University has more than 160 full-time Faculty members. Research and teaching in information technology span all academic activities which involve computers including computer science, information and media sciences, humanities and social sciences, business impact and the commercialization of IT.

We invite applicants who want to contribute to the IT University’s vision of creating and sharing knowledge that is profound and leads to groundbreaking information technology and services for the benefit of humanity; and to contribute to the Digital Design Department’s research themes on care, creativity, participation, data and AI.

The postdoc positions require academic qualifications at PhD level.


Appointment and salary will be in accordance with the Ministry of Finance’s agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (AC).


The application should be in English and should include:

  • A cover letter.
  • A research statement, which provides evidence of independent thinking, novelty and originality, and a state-of-the-art grasp of the targeted research field matching the project description above.
  • A full CV, including name, address, phone number, e-mail, previous and present employment and academic background
  • Documentation of academic degrees (copy of degree certificates etc.)
  • Applications may also include up to 3 relevant scientific publications written by the applicant, or the applicant’s master thesis. Letters of recommendation can also be included in the application

Applications without the above-mentioned required documents will not be assessed.

The applicant will be accessed according to the Appointment Order from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of 13 March 2012.

The IT University may use shortlisting in connection to the recruitment process. In case of shortlisting, the Chair of the hiring committee selects applicants for assessment in consultation with the hiring committee after the application deadline. All applicants are notified whether their application has been passed for assessment. The shortlisting of candidates for assessment is based on the criteria in the job posting.

Early contact with our faculty staff is encouraged.

Questions about the positions can be directed to Sebastian Risi, IT University of Copenhagen, e-mail Questions related to the application procedure may be directed to HR,

Application procedure

You can only apply for this position through our e-recruitment system. Apply by pressing the button “Apply for position” in the job announcement on our website:

Applications should be written in English. All other documents, such as transcripts should be accompanied by a translation in English or Danish.

Please note that all application material will be destroyed after the assessment.

Application deadline: 1 February 2023, at 23:59 CEST.

Applications/enclosures received at ITU after the application deadline will not be taken into consideration. If you submit an application, it is your responsibility to ensure that it arrives before the deadline so please allow sufficient time for upload of publications and other documents.The IT University invites all qualified researchers regardless of age, gender, religious affiliation or ethnic background to apply for the positions.