ELLIS PhD Program: Call for applications



The ELLIS PhD program is a key element of the ELLIS initiative and its goal is to foster and educate the best talent in machine learning and related research areas by pairing outstanding students with leading academic and industrial researchers in Europe and offering a variety of networking and training activities, including summer schools and workshops. Every PhD student is co-supervised by one ELLIS fellow/scholar/unit faculty and one ELLIS fellow/scholar/member based in different European countries, and conducts an exchange (min. 6 months) with the international advisor during their degree. One of the advisors may also come from industry, in which case the student will instead closely collaborate with the industry partner, and spend min. 6 months conducting research at the industrial lab.

Research areas include (but are not limited to) the following machine learning-driven research fields:

  • Machine Learning Algorithms
  • Machine Learning Theory
  • Optimization
  • Deep Learning
  • Interactive and Online Learning
  • Reinforcement Learning and Control
  • Computer Vision
  • Computer Graphics
  • Robotics
  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Causality
  • Interpretability and Fairness
  • Robust and Trustworthy Machine Learning
  • Quantum and Physics-based Machine Learning
  • Symbolic Machine Learning 
  • Computational Neuroscience
  • Earth and Climate Sciences
  • Bioinformatics
  • Health

Interested candidates should apply online through the ELLIS application portal.

  • Application website: The application portal will open in early October; the registration link will be posted on this page. You can already start preparing the documents listed under ‘Additional information’ below.
  • Application deadline: November 15th, 2021, 23:59 CET
  • Timeline of the selection procedure: review (November/December 2021), interviews (January/February 2022), decisions (late February - March 2022)
  • All application documents (including reference letters, see below) must be submitted before the application deadline. Only complete applications will be considered. 

ELLIS values diversity and seeks to increase the number of women in areas where they are underrepresented. We therefore explicitly encourage women to apply. We are also committed to recruiting more people living with disabilities and strongly encourage them to apply.


Additional information

Advisor and time-sharing requirements

ELLIS PhDs are co-supervised by one ELLIS fellow/scholar/unit faculty and one ELLIS fellow/scholar/member, both based in Europe. During the selection process, the main focus will be on finding a match with the primary advisor. Finding a co-advisor can be done simultaneously, or up to 5 months after acceptance to the program. 

Exchange and time-sharing:

  • Academic Track: During their appointment, the PhD student must visit the secondary advisor in a different European country for min. 6 months (partitioning of the time is flexible).  
  • Industry Track: The candidate will spend a minimum of 50% of their time at the academic partner institution and a minimum of 6 months with the industry partner. This can be accumulative (e.g. 2 days per week) or consecutive. The industry partner, industrial research lab, and industry advisor must all be based in Europe (regardless of HQ location), but can otherwise be in the same country/city as the academic partner.
  • The PhD degree must come from a European institution.

Application process

As part of the application procedure, you will be able to indicate preferences for specific research areas and potential supervisors who are participating in this year’s current recruiting round. The list of ELLIS advisors who are recruiting and their research areas will be available in the application portal. For questions about eligibility, please see our  FAQs.

The application consists of three parts:

(1) Application form. In the application form, you provide your personal details, indicate your preferences for research fields and advisors and list relevant degrees and experience. 

(2) Documents. You will need to upload the following documents (as PDFs):

  • A two-page motivational letter in which you (1) explain why you want to earn a Ph.D. within the ELLIS network and (2) include a research statement describing past research projects and interests as well as the future direction of your research. (Optional: In addition to (1) and (2), you may also mention specific advisors you are interested in working with.)
  • Your current CV that details your educational background, work experience, full citations of any publications you may have, any research presentations you have given, and any awards you have received.
  • Unofficial transcripts of all of your university studies (BSc, MSc), as well as a translation into English.
  • Optionally, additional documents such as a thesis, published paper, or project portfolio, (or parts thereof) as a single PDF (<20 MB).

(3) References. You will also be asked to provide the contact details of min. 2 referees (max. 3) who have agreed to submit a reference. Referees will be informed via the application system once you click the button to “request your reference letter”. Recommendation letters must be received before the application deadline, so make sure to get in touch with your referees well in advance.

Please also read our FAQs. Contact: phd@ellis.eu.