[visionlist] [jobs] 3 PhD positions "Visual factors underlying aesthetic image preferences"

Johan Wagemans johan.wagemans at kuleuven.be
Sat Aug 6 09:18:09 -04 2022

3 PhD positions "Visual factors underlying aesthetic image preferences"
Three full-time PhD positions are available to work on the GRAPPA project, funded by an ERC Advanced Grant, recently awarded to Johan Wagemans at KU Leuven (Belgium). The GRAPPA project (acronym for "Gestalts Relate Aesthetic Preferences to Perceptual Analysis") aims to develop and test a model to predict, explain and understand aesthetic preferences for natural images and pictures of artworks on the basis of mid-level vision factors. The central working hypothesis is that these factors (e.g., figure-ground segmentation, symmetry, composition, colour harmony, perceptual ambiguity) provide a bridge between supposedly universal principles of low-level perceptual analysis based on image statistics and high-level style and content preferences that may vary between different cultural groups and individuals ("the eye of the beholder"). The GRAPPA project will combine large-scale online testing of aesthetic preferences for images and psychophysical experiments on specific perceptual organization principles with gradually more sophisticated modelling based on machine learning and computer vision. The validation stage will go beyond mere preference and beyond images to include more general measures of aesthetic appreciation, mobile eye-tracking studies in museums, and collaborations with contemporary artists. For more information on the project, see https://www.kuleuven.be/english/research/EU/p/he/p1/erc/GRAPPA.
The three PhD students we are recruiting now will work on the following topics, with specific interests and skills: PhD1 with background in psychology for the theoretical and experimental work on factors of perceptual organization determining aesthetic appreciation; PhD2 with background in image processing or computer vision for the automatic computation of factors of perceptual organization in real images; PhD3 with background in machine learning or neural networks for the development, training and use of DNNs. For PhD positions 2 and 3, co-supervisors in computer vision and/or machine learning are possible in Leuven or Nijmegen.
Eligible candidates have relevant Master degrees with some research experience obtained through their Master thesis and/or research internship. All candidates are expected to be keen on conducting  interdisciplinary research, with a creative mind, good problem solving skills, and a collaborative, open-minded, and collegial attitude.
We currently have funding for four years for each of these positions, starting with a one-year contract. We have a good track record helping PhD students to obtain their own PhD fellowships afterwards, allowing them to extend their stay and broaden the range of research questions. The net amount of the salary will be competitive and in accordance with the university fellowship scales for PhD students. The position is mainly for research, with 120 hours of teaching support per year in a course related to their background or interests. KU Leuven is one of the best European universities according to international rankings (#41 world-wide in the 2021 THE ranking). Our research group belongs to the department of Brain & Cognition, located in the centre of Leuven, a vibrant university town which is only a 25-minute commute from the centre of Brussels and its international airport.
Interested candidates should email johan.wagemans at kuleuven.be<mailto:johan.wagemans at kuleuven.be> as soon as possible, with (1) a motivation letter indicating for which of these 3 positions they apply, (2) an extended CV including their study curriculum, skills, and relevant experience, as well as (3) two names and email addresses of colleagues who know the candidate through course work or research projects. Relevant candidates will be contacted to apply formally through the KU Leuven recruitment system. Candidates who will participate in the Visual Science of Art Conference (VSAC<https://vsac2022.tudelft.nl/>) in Amsterdam (August 24-27) and/or the European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP<https://2022.ecvp.eu/>) in Nijmegen (August 28 - September 1) should try to meet Johan Wagemans there. There is no formal deadline yet but the positions will be filled as soon as possible.

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