Post-doctoral position available (speech perception, language comprehension, implicit distributional learning, inference under uncertainty, hierarchical predictive systems)

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The Human Language Processing (HLP) Lab at the University of Rochester is looking for a post-doctoral researcher interested in speech perception and adaptation. Possible start dates for this 1-3 year position range from mid August 2014 to mid June 2015 (the current post-doctoral researcher funded under this grant will leave HLP lab in late August to start a tenure-track position in Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh). International students are welcome to apply (NIH research grants are not limited to nationals).

We will start reviewing applications mid-June 2014 though later submissions are welcome. Applications should contain (1) a cover letter clearly indicated possible start dates, (2) a CV, (3) research statement detailing qualifications and research interests, and (4) 2 or more letters of recommendation. Applications and letters should be emailed to Kathy Corser (, subject line “application for post-doc position (HLP Lab)”.

This is an NIH funded project (NIHCD R01 HD075797), currently scheduled to end in 2018. The project is a collaboration between Florian Jaeger (PI), Mike Tanenhaus (co-PI), Robbie Jacobs and Dick Aslin. We are interested in how listeners manage to understand each other despite considerable within- and across-speaker variability in the physical realization of the same sounds. To this end, we investigate speech perception as a form of inference under uncertainty at multiple levels, where -in addition to uncertainty about the signal, listeners need to take into account uncertainty about which previous experiences are most relevant in determining how to process the current percept. We are interested in how we generalize previous experiences across different talkers and to what extent we induce structure/relations between assumptions about different (types of) talkers, thereby facilitating robust perception of both previously encountered and novel speakers.

We encourage applications from researchers with strong track records and interests in these questions. The post-doctoral candidate would be expected to spend time contributing to and developing our project on speech perception, but we would strongly encourage broad interests and inter-disciplinary work, including collaborations with other faculty at Rochester. We are particularly interested in drawing on and connecting to research beyond speech perception, including other levels of language comprehension (lexical, syntactic, prosodic, and/or pragmatic). We are particularly interested in researchers who can draw on computational approaches and behavioral or imaging data (the latter would be in collaboration with Raj Raizada). The ideal candidate comes with a solid background in speech perception, statistics, computational approaches to inference and learning, and interests (or even qualifications) in fMRI.  Applicants with partial qualifications in these areas are also welcome to apply and will receive full consideration.

For selected publications that are representative of the first year of this project, see:

  1. Kleinschmidt, D. and Jaeger, T. F. under revision. Robust Speech Perception: Recognizing the familiar, generalizing to the similar, and adapting to the novel. [available upon request]
  2. Toscano, J., Munson Toscano, C., Kleinschmidt, D., and Jaeger, T. F. under revision. A single mechanism for language acquisition and perceptual adaptation? [available upon request]
  3. Kleinschmidt, D., and Jaeger, T. F. 2012. A continuum of phonetic adaptation: Evaluating an incremental belief-updating model of recalibration and selective adaptation. In TBA (eds.) Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci12), 605-610. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

More broadly, HLP lab research focuses on language production and comprehension and the interaction between them. We use mathematical frameworks to develop computational models of how the systems underlying language processing and production facilitate robust communication. We employ a variety of approaches to the study of language, including lab- and web-based experiments on spoken and written language, interactive communicative tasks, and corpus-based studies of unscripted conversational speech. This involves research in implicit distributional/statistical learning, adaptation to the statistics of the environments and how we adjust our processing and productions based on recent experience and feedback. Other ongoing research projects at HLP Lab include, but are not limited to  implicit statistical learning during lexical and sentence processing, communicative efficiency and adaptation during language production (e.g., integration of self- and other-feedback that changes subsequent productions), and how these various factors affect language change and the distribution of languages across the world.

The post-doctoral researchers would be welcome to participate in any of these projects as well as collaborations with other faculty at Rochester’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Center of Language Sciences – a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary environment. Cross-lab collaborations are the norm (e.g., including collaborations with Michael Tanenhaus, Richard Aslin, Robert Jacobs, Jeff Runner, and Chigusa Kurumada). Other CLS members include Steven Piantadosi, Celeste Kidd, Scott Grimm, Brad Mahon, Dan Gildea, James Allen, Len Shubert, Greg Carlson, and Joyce McDonough.

This project connects to other research in the lab on bi/multi-lingualism, language acquisition, and language processing in the presence of noise and variability above and beyond the lowest levels of speech perception. Some recent examples of our work bridging these areas include:

  1. Pajak, B., Fine, A.B., Kleinschmidt, D., and Jaeger, T. F. submitted. Learning additional languages as hierarchical probabilistic inference: insights from L1 processing. To Language Learning [pdf]
  2. Yildirim, I., Degen, J., Tanenhaus, M., and Jaeger, T. F. 2013. Linguistic Variability and Adaptation in Quantifier Meanings. In Knauff, M., Pauen, N., Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (eds.) Proceedings of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci13), 3835-3840. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]
  3. Fine, A. B., Jaeger, T. F., Farmer, T., and Qian, T. 2013. Rapid expectation adaptation during syntactic comprehension. PLoS ONE 8(10), e77661. [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077661] [pdf]

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