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Open-ended reinforcement learning through skill discovery

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, February 09, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project under the supervision of Dr Özgür Şimşek in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath. The University is located in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath, providing a vibrant research environment in one of the most beautiful areas in the UK.

This project will develop new machine learning algorithms that can achieve open-ended developmental learning in large, complex environments. The objective is to use the reinforcement learning framework to develop algorithms that allow artificial agents to autonomously develop skill sets that are useful for achieving various different objectives in the environment. These algorithms will enable a developmental process for the agent. During this process, skills of increasing complexity will be learned through continuously building on the skills already acquired.

As an example, a robot may identify grasping as a useful skill to have and seek to acquire it as efficiently as possible. Grasping may then be followed by learning to manipulate objects in different ways, which may be followed by using a key to unlock the door to an adjacent room, and so on, forming a continuously growing hierarchy of skills that may easily be employed to achieve emerging objectives.

The algorithmic approach will depend on the background and interests of the student. For example, the project may build on existing approaches that work with a graphical representation of the environment. Alternatively, it may seek inspiration from (and understanding of) how people identify and acquire skills in environments that are new to them, for example, when learning to play a new game.

Candidate requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree, or the equivalent from an overseas university. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous. Desirable qualities in candidates include intellectual curiosity, a strong background in math, and extensive programming experience.

Enquiries and applications:

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Dr Özgür Şimşek on email address .

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Computer Science:

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Funding Notes

Research Council funding is available for an excellent UK or EU student who has been ordinarily resident in the UK since September 2017. For more information on eligibility: View Website.

Funding will cover UK/EU tuition fees, maintenance at the UKRI doctoral stipend rate (£15,009 per annum tax-free in 2019/20, increasing annually in line with the GDP inflator) and a training support grant (£1,000 per annum) for a period of up to 3.5 years.

We also welcome all-year-round applications from self-funded candidates and candidates who can source their own funding.

How good is research at University of Bath in Computer Science and Informatics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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