PhD position in Rational Verification and Synthesis in Multi-Agent Systems (1.0 FTE)

Hours per week: 
38 to 40
Faculty of Science
Department of Information and Computing Sciences, Intelligent Systems
Application deadline: 

Job description

In complex multi-agent systems, decisions made by one agent affect the rational responses of other agents and hence the behaviour of the whole system. Given a model of the causal relationships in a multi-agent system, you will investigate: (a) how automated verification techniques can be used to predict the effects on overall system behaviour of changes to the system; and (b) how to synthesise strategies for a particular agent to achieve an overall system goal when other agents in the system adopt rational strategies.

This PhD position is part of the CAUSES project funded by NWO and ProRail, the Netherlands railway infrastructure organisation. ProRail will provide the data and simulation environments for use in the project. You will work with another PhD student who will focus on how causal models of multi-agent systems can be learned. Supported by developers from the innovation and development lab and the data scientists at ProRail, both PhD students will be involved in designing and implementing a decision support system based on the results of the project, and will regularly visit ProRail for consultation and development.

You will also be involved in supporting the preparation and teaching of Bachelor- and Master-level courses, supervising student theses, managing research infrastructure, and participating in public outreach. You will be part of the Intelligent Systems (IS) group, led by professor Mehdi Dastani, who will also be your daily supervisor along with dr. Natasha Alechina, and dr. Brian Logan.


We are looking for a candidate with perseverance and a committed spirit. You also have

  • a good background in modal or temporal logic and algorithmic complexity;
  • understanding of basic AI concepts and techniques (intelligent agents, planning, learning);
  • good programming skills;
  • a Master’s degree in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, or a related field;
  • excellent communication skills in English, both in speech and in writing.


We offer an exciting opportunity to contribute to an ambitious and international education programme with highly motivated students and to conduct your own research project at a renowned research university. You will receive appropriate training, personal supervision, and guidance for both your research and teaching tasks, which will provide an excellent start to an academic career.

In addition, you will have

  • the opportunity to work in a collaborative, social, and dedicated team of researchers;
  • a full-time position for 4 years;
  • a full-time gross salary starting at €2,395 in the first year and increasing to €3,061 in the fourth year (scale P Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao));
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, andflexible employment conditions 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 yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

More information about 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 fundamental and applied research in computer science and information science. In our constantly changing (digital) society, the department of Information and Computing Sciences is constantly looking for new, realistic ways to push the boundaries of both science and social application. We contribute to innovative information technologies through the development and application of new concepts, theories, algorithms, and software methods. Relevant areas of interdisciplinary research include Game Research, Foundations of Complex Systems, Applied Data Science, and Artificial Intelligence.

The Department has, among others, close collaborations with the University Medical Centre, the Departments of Physics and Mathematics, and the Faculties of Humanities and Geosciences. The Department offers Bachelor's programmes in Computer Science and Information Science, and six English language Research Master's programmes in Artificial Intelligence, Business Informatics, Computing Science, Human-Computer Interaction, Game and Media Technology, and Applied Data Science. High enrolment figures and good student ratings make education very successful. The Department currently comprises 17 Chairs and 109 other scientific staff, including Postdocs and PhD candidates.

The Intelligent Systems group studies intelligent systems in both fundamental and application-oriented ways, with a special focus on intelligent agents and multi-agent systems. Particular research themes of the group are “autonomy and decision making’’ and “reasoning in multiagent settings’’. 

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 familiar 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 community and wonderfully diverse.

Additional information

If you have any questions about this position, please contact Professor Mehdi Dastani via

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Then 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 and we attach great importance to diversity and gender balance. Applicants are encouraged to mention any personal circumstances that need to be taken into account, for example parental leave or military service.
If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the “Apply now” button!
Please enclose the following documents in English:

  • 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 is not for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward the link to them.

Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews is subject to change. Initial interviews will most likely be conducted online.

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

The application deadline is 30 April 2021.