Doctoral Researcher, Adapting computational methods to challenges in historical research at scale

Updated: about 1 month ago
Deadline: 12 Apr 2024

The Faculty of Arts and CASCADE MSCA Doctoral Network invite applications for a

Doctoral Researcher in Digital Humanities / Data Science

to a fixed-term employment for 3 years, with the possibility of a one-year extension contract. The position is titled: "Adapting computational methods to challenges in historical research at scale".

Drawing from CASCADE’s expertise in both the conceptual understanding of different types of semantic change, as well as the methods to computationally model such changes, this project will focus on ensuring that the computational approaches measure what they’re supposed to measure. This includes fine-tuning machine-learning methods to capture different types of change, as well as ensuring that the measures derived are robust against external confounders, which may arise either from the data itself or from the uneven performance of the methods themselves. Further, the project involves building adaptable environments which should enable the easy application of these methods to new data and questions. The selected doctoral candidate should have prior knowledge in natural language processing/language technology and/or data science.

Host institution: University of Helsinki (Finland)

PhD:  PhD in Digital Humanities / Data Science

Main supervisor: prof. Eetu Mäkelä (University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Digital Humanities)

Second supervisor: prof. Mikko Tolonen (University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Digital Humanities)

Mobility rule: has not resided in Finland for more than 12 months in the 36 months preceding appointment.

Tasks of the PhD candidate:

● Completion of a PhD thesis within four years (1,0 fte contract for three years, possibility for extension contract for fourth year);

● Participation in the general training programme of the doctoral network (kick-off, monthly online research meetings, annual workshops and schools, and final conference)

● Collaboration with a multidisciplinary research group focused on the intersection of computational science, linguistics, and history/cultural heritage.

● Development of computational approaches for the analysis of historical digital collections.

● Participation in joint publications and engagement in academic service.

Planned secondments: CCRS. (Year 2-3. 6 months. Testing NLP tools and techniques for information extraction and modelling from commercial insurance data.) Also visiting: Netherlands eScience Center, USFD (alternative frameworks for the history of concepts).


We believe in flexibility when selecting the ideal candidate; therefore, the requirements are adaptable. You can approach this position from the following background:

Computational Background:

● Msc / MA degree in Digital Humanities, Data Science, AI, language technology, NLP, Information Science, or related fields, held by time of appointment (if the degree is not yet obtained at the time of application, a statement by the applicant’s supervisor should confirm that it will be obtained by time of appointment).

● Demonstrated experience in applying computational methods.

● Capability to bridge the gap between data science and the humanities.

● Strong research and analytical skills.

This PhD position is part of a broader research community that includes different projects focusing on historical full-text collections and large metadata collections in different languages. We are particularly interested in candidates who can demonstrate that they can collaborate in an interdisciplinary environment with the intellectual historian that will be hired in CASCADE to Helsinki.

Degree requirement for doctoral researcher position: The appointee must apply, and obtain, the right to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Helsinki within the probationary period of 6 months:

Applicants must not hold a doctoral degree in any other field or have failed a corresponding doctoral examination at another higher education institution.

The University of Helsinki is committed to promoting equality and preventing discrimination in all its operations. We welcome applicants from a variety of gender identities, linguistic and cultural backgrounds.


The University of Helsinki offers the appointee a first-class research and teaching environment as well as the preconditions necessary for international cooperation ( ).

The position is full-time for 3 years with a possible extension contract for fourth year. The employment contract will include a probationary period of six months.

The salary is competitive and complies with the MSC Work Programme: appr. 3550 €/month, including Mobility allowance, after compulsory deductions. A conditional Family allowance of appr. 500 € can be added to the salary.

For the possible fourth year extension contract the salary will be defined based on the demands level table for teaching and research personnel in the salary system of Finnish universities (approximately 3100-3700€/month, depending on the performance).

The University of Helsinki provides its staff with occupational health and sports services as well as professional development opportunities ( ). The appointee is expected to reside in Finland while employed by the University of Helsinki. International staff is supported in relocating to Finland ( ).


The application must be submitted through the University of Helsinki electronic recruitment system by clicking on the link below. Employees of the University of Helsinki must submit their applications through the SAP Fiori portal.

Applicants are requested to enclose with their applications the following documents in English. Please add documents 1-4 as a single PDF file titled “lastname_firstname_application” and documents 5-6 as a separate PDF file titled “lastname_firstname_sample_output:

1. CV (max. 2 pages, including list of publications)

2. Cover letter (600–800 words), covering:

• Which qualifications make you suitable for the position

• How this PhD position aligns with your scholarly interests and further career plans within or outside academia

• Your motivation to participate in a doctoral network which includes international mobility and an internship period

3. Names and contact details (email address) of two academic referees

• You must have the permission of the academic referee to use their name and contact details. They may be asked to provide a reference letter at a later stage.

4. MSc/MA degree certificate (if available) and transcript of records

• If the degree is not yet obtained at the time of application, a statement by the applicant’s supervisor should confirm that it will be obtained by time of appointment

5. Academic writing sample in English

6. Sample of code written (e.g. repository link)

The deadline for applications is 12th of April 2024. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview.


For any questions and further information, please contact Professor Mikko Tolonen, [email protected]. Further information about the recruitment process can be obtained from HR Specialist Reeta Korhonen, [email protected].

This PhD position is part of CASCADE: Computational Analysis of Semantic Change Across Different Environments (MSCA Doctoral Network). CASCADE aims to train early-stage researchers to develop and apply innovative methodologies for Computational Analysis of Semantic Change Across Different Environments (CASCADE), i.e. to identify, analyse and interrogate how meaning is expressed in language in diverse contexts, with a shared focus on the impact of time (diachronic text analytics). Researchers in the network will encounter different theories of, and approaches to meaning (structuralist, relational, distributional, cognitive, encyclopaedic, social) and learn how these affect the criteria for judging success in text analysis.

MSCA Doctoral Networks are research and training programmes with the goal of training highly skilled doctoral candidates, stimulating their creativity, enhancing their innovation capacities and boosting their employability in the long term. For CASCADE this means responding to a skills deficit in the academic, public and commercial sectors: the need for people able to retrieve, critically evaluate and make better use of the large volumes of textual data that characterise our contemporary information society (the ‘data deluge’).

Being part of an MSCA Doctoral Network means taking part in networking activities and spending time abroad. Each PhD candidate will be co-supervised by two academics within the consortium; they will be based at one of the universities of CASCADE and visit the university of their co-supervisor for a research stay, as well as have a shorter internship at an associated partner. They will be expected to participate in full in the training programme, consisting of summer schools, workshops, a regular online seminar, and other activities.

CASCADE is committed to creating an environment in which all talents can develop to their maximum potential, regardless of gender, age, cultural origin, nationality or disability. We particularly encourage candidates from traditionally underrepresented groups to apply.

CASCADE is advertising positions for 10 candidates within its framework, who will be based at 5 participating universities. Applications for each position must be submitted separately. It is possible to apply for more than one position, in which case the applicant must send a separate email to [email protected], stating this and indicating their preference. The recruitment process will be done centrally by the CASCADE selection committee.

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