Careers And Study

PhD Student- Reinforcement Learning for Adaptive Radiation Therapy

Function description

Function description
The Netherlands Cancer institute (NKI) is an internationally recognized center for cancer research and treatment of cancer patients. The University of Amsterdam (UvA) has a strong track record in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Elekta Oncology Systems produces state of the art equipment and software for radiation oncology. Together they collaborate in the POP-AART lab (Partnership for Online Personalized AI-driven Adaptive RadioTherapy). The lab focusses on the use of AI to improve precision radiation in oncology. We are hiring a PhD students in reinforcement learning for this Lab. 

Radiotherapy treatment plans are designed by optimizing the parameters of the treatment delivery device such as beam directions, apertures, delivery times. Typically, such plans are designed based on a single CT scan of the patient. In practice, the anatomy of the patients changes continuously and adaptive radiation therapy aims to adjust the treatment plan accordingly. The goal of this project is to use reinforcement learning to optimize radiation treatment plans and adapt them in response to anatomical changes. 

You are going to carry out AI research ( as part of the POP-AART lab at both the Netherlands Cancer Institute and the University of Amsterdam. There will also be regular interactions with researchers at Elekta Oncology Systems. In the lab, you will be supervised by prof. Sonke and dr. Gavves, as well as an assistant professor we are currently hiring. The lab will be part of the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence, a Netherlands initiative focused on joint technology development between academia, industry and government in the area of artificial intelligence.

The Netherlands Cancer Institute is among the top 10 comprehensive cancer centers, combining world-class fundamental, translational, and clinical research with dedicated patient care. Approximately 750 persons are employed in the research laboratories of NKI. Discussions, lectures and seminars are all in English and a multi-national community of postdocs, students and staff members contribute to the stimulating atmosphere of the Institute. We offer an inspiring and interactive research environment, state-of-the-art facilities, training and housing facilities in the vicinity of the Institute.

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 6,500, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain. Amsterdam is a livable city with many cultural amenities. 

Your tasks will be to:
  • Develop new machine learning methods within the context of adaptive radiation therapy;
  • Collaborate with other researchers within the lab, NKI, UvA and Elekta;
  • Perform novel academic research on the crossroads of deep machine learning and medical physics. Research will be published in the top related, conferences, including ICLR, NeurIPS, ICML, CVPR, PAMI, MICCAI, AAPM, ICCR, PMB and Medical Physics.
  • Complete and defend a PhD thesis within the official appointment duration of four years;
  • Regularly present intermediate research results at international conferences and workshops, and publish them in proceedings and journals;
  • Assist in relevant teaching activities.

Job requirements

  • A Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, or related field; 
  • A strong background in computer vision and/or machine learning;
  • Strong analytical skills and technical skills;
  • Excellent programming skills preferably in Python; 
  • Excellent mathematics foundations, especially statistics and probability theory, calculus and linear algebra;
  • You are highly motivated and creative, with a proactive and independent mindset;
  • An interdisciplinary mindset and an open and proactive personality in interacting with researchers from different disciplines;
  • Strong communication, presentation and writing skills and excellent command of English;
  • Prior publications in relevant vision and machine learning venues will be advantageous for your application.


Your temporary employment will be for a period of 4 years. The gross salary per month for our PhD will range from € 2.882,- to a maximum of € 3.322,- according to the standard PhD scales. The terms of employment will be in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Hospitals. In addition you will receive a fixed end-of-year bonus (8,33%) and you will receive 8,33% holiday pay. For more information in regards to the secondary conditions please visit our website:

Would you like to know more about this vacancy or our organisation? 
Please contact: 
prof. dr. ir. Jan-Jakob Sonke tel. + 31 (0)20-5121731 and email
Dr. Efstratios Gavves tel + 31 (0)20-5258701 and email

How to apply?
Please send your application in via our website, applications sent directly to e-mail will not be processed. Furthermore we would like to receive 1 single PDF file with all documents listed below:
  • A motivation letter that explains why you are interested in the PhD vacancy and joining the team; 
  • A separate research statement where you explain your initial ideas, e.g., how would you propose to start the research. We are not looking at this stage for working solutions, creativity is appreciated. 
  • Curriculum vitae, including your list of publications if applicable;
  • A link to your Master’s thesis;
  • A complete record of Bachelor and Master courses (including grades and explanation of grading system);
  • A list of projects and publications you have worked on (with brief descriptions of your contributions, max 2 pages);
  • The names and contact addresses of at least two academic references (please do not include any recommendation letters).

Acquisition in regards to this vacancy is not appreciated. 

The NKI values diversity and is committed to creating an inclusive work environment that stimulates the best in each individual. Applications of all individuals are welcomed regardless of age, ancestry, religion, disability, distance from the labor market, sexual orientation or gender identity.


  • Hours per week: 36
  • Salary level: PhD-scale
Nastassja  Drenthe

Nastassja Drenthe

Jan Jakob  Sonke

Jan Jakob Sonke

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