How to Apply

REGISTER YOUR INTEREST

Applicants for Jerusalem-Melbourne Joint PhD (JM-JPhD) projects should:

  • Identify a project of interest
  • Register their interest with the project supervisor based at the University of Melbourne, including the following information:
    • Name, contact details
    • Joint PhD project of interest
    • Cover Letter, CV and Transcript
    • Any supporting documentation

Note: All applicants are required to meet the entry requirements for a PhD at both partner universities to be considered.

The successful candidates will be funded by either UoM or HUJI. This funding includes a full scholarship and mobility support. Eligible candidates for the Hirsh and Olga Taft Scholarship will be automatically considered.

CHECK ADMISSION CRITERIA

Minimum entry requirements for a PhD at Melbourne are summarised here, including visa and English language requirements.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

All participants have access to UoM living allowance support. Scholarships are awarded for 3 years, with the possibility of 6 months extension. All participants receive a UoM tuition fee waiver for up to 4 years.


Motivational strength in emotion regulation in healthy and depressed individuals.

Please note that applications for these two projects will no longer be accepted until further notice.


Two Jerusalem-Melbourne Joint PhD positions: one with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem as home institution and another with The University of Melbourne as home institution.  Candidates will spend a minimum of 12 months at the host institution.

Project Description:
Being able to successfully influence our emotions is critical for psychological wellbeing. Although research has uncovered some factors that contribute to successful emotion regulation, much remains unknown. How strongly motivated people are to change their emotions is key to successful emotion regulation. Motivational strength refers to the intensity of the drive to pursue emotional change, and is captured by commitment to achieve that change and by the effort people are willing to invest to achieve it.

The proposed PhD projects seek to identify the antecedents of motivational strength in emotion regulation:

  1. the perceived desirability and attainability of the desired emotional change to shape motivational strength;
  2. increasing motivational strength in emotion regulation will facilitate successful emotion regulation and promote psychological health.

Although greater motivational strength in emotion regulation in healthy adults is expected to be beneficial for well-being, this may not be the case in people who suffer from depression, as intense motivational strength could potentially be counterproductive. PhD Projects 1 and 2 will test these novel ideas by examining emotion regulation in the laboratory and in daily life.

Both PhD projects will feature laboratory-based experiments, and examine emotion regulation in daily life. PhD Project 1 will examine motivational strength in emotion regulation among healthy adults, and PhD Project 2 will examine motivational strength in emotion regulation among participants diagnosed with clinical depression. The Project 1 candidate will learn how to administer and analyze ecological momentary assessments at The University of Melbourne. The Project 2 candidate will learn lab-based experimental and physiology measures at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI).

PhD Project 1 (based at The University of Melbourne)
Project title: Motivational strength in emotion regulation in healthy individuals

The project will test whether motivational strength in emotion regulation depends on the desirability of an emotion regulation goal (i.e., the perceived benefits of goal attainment) and the attainability of the goal (i.e., the expected chances of goal attainment). Additionally, the project will test whether motivational strength facilitates successful emotion regulation and promotes well-being. Four studies will test these hypotheses.

  • Study 1 will test the causal role of desirability in shaping motivational strength in emotion regulation. Study 2 will test the causal role of attainability.
  • Study 3 will examine motivational strength in emotion regulation in daily life among participants from a community sample.
  • Study 4 will combine experimental and daily life approaches to test whether motivational strength in daily life can be manipulated, and whether doing so facilitates successful emotion regulation in daily life. We expect greater motivational strength to lead to more successful emotion regulation and greater well-being, uncovering an important novel factor that contributes to healthier emotional lives.

The involvement of a PhD candidate in this project will be critical. The PhD candidate will design and develop target manipulations, construct experimental designs, implement the research plan, and prepare manuscripts for publication. The PhD candidate will also help integrate experimental and daily life approaches, ultimately creating experimental interventions that can be implemented in daily life.

 

PhD Project 2: (based at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Project title: Motivational strength in emotion regulation in depressed individuals

PhD Project 2 will examine motivational strength in emotion regulation in both healthy and clinically depressed individuals. Given that it targets a clinical population, that is harder to recruit and test, we expect PhD Project 2 to take four years to complete.

The project will include four studies, to test how depressed and non-depressed individuals differ in motivational strength in emotion regulation and its emotional and psychological outcomes.

  • Study 1 will involve a lab-based manipulation of difficulty in emotion regulation to test its impact on motivational strength.
  • Study 2 will assess the operation of motivational strength in emotion regulation in daily life, as the difficulty of emotion regulation varies naturally. Study 3 will be lab-based and will test whether increasing or decreasing motivational strength in depressed individuals impacts successful emotion regulation.
  • Study 4 will include a manipulation phase and an experience sampling phase, to test whether it may be possible to facilitate successful emotion regulation among depressed individuals, by manipulating motivational strength.

The involvement of a PhD candidate will be critical for the implementation and success of the project. In addition to developing and implementing manipulations and research designs, the PhD candidate will offer and incorporate the perspective of a clinician.

 

Skills and requirements:

  • Honours or a Master’s degree in psychology
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of the team
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date)

Supervisors:

Dr Elise Kalokerinos – The University of Melbourne

Prof Maya Tamir – The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 


Cognitive training combined with non-invasive brain stimulation for the treatment of late life depression (LLD)

This project is no longer accepting applications

 

Two Jerusalem-Melbourne Joint PhD positions are available: one with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem as home institution and another with The University of Melbourne as home institution.  Candidates are required to spend a minimum of 12 months at the host institution.

Project Description:
The two distinct, yet related, PhD projects will be devoted to studying different aspects of applying a novel treatment approach, combining psychosocial training along with non-invasive brain stimulation to improve outcomes related to mental health and cognitive status in LLD. Both PhD candidates will collect data using the same training paradigm in both Israel and Australia while focusing on different research questions. The two studies will be conducted independently; however, it is our hope that our design will subsequently allow us to pool data from both studies and evaluate outcomes on a larger sample.

 

PhD Project 1 (based at The University of Melbourne)
Project title: Cognitive and psychosocial training combined with non-invasive brain stimulation for the treatment of mild-moderate depression in older adults.

The project will focus on improving behavioural aspects of the intervention, specifically by:

  1. Incorporating novel, gamified approaches to the training of cognition, particularly social cognition;
  2. The incorporation of behaviour-change theory and methodology to better tailor the treatment to the profile of individual participants and improve treatment adherence in the context of remote delivery.
  3. The project will also address the relative and combined effects of the behavioural intervention and the non-invasive brain stimulation to test the hypothesis that the combined approach is associated with improved cognitive and affective outcomes relative to either of the approaches in isolation.

 

PhD Project 2 (based at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Project title: Changes in neural oscillations and in everyday mood and cognition following treatment in LLD.

The project will focus on two main aspects:

  1. changes in resting-state neural oscillations following the application of the combined treatment approach; and
  2. changes in everyday mood and cognitive states following treatment. Answering these questions will provide deeper understanding into the neural changes associated with training and may lead to better tailoring of individualized training programs for elderly struggling with LLD, which can be applied in an ecological, everyday setting.

To address these research questions, EEG will be measured from study participants before and after the intervention, using the g.Tech nautilus system available in Nahum’s lab. The Nahum las has developed a pipeline of data analysis methods for analyzing resting state EEG data, on which the candidates will be

trained and that will be applied for the current population. In addition, a mobile app developed by the Nahum lab will be used to collect Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) data from patients during 2 weeks before and after treatment. This methodology will be used here to study ecological changes in mood and cognition as a result of treatment. We expect that applying this novel, ecological methodology in the context of LLD will lead to novel data on manifestation of mood and cognition in daily lives of those struggling with LLD.

The two PhD candidates will work together under the supervision of both PIs on the development of the treatment and assessment protocol that will be used in both the Israel-based and Australian-based trial.

 

Skills and requirements:

  • Demonstrated experience in the field of neurological sciences
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of the team
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date)

Supervisors:

Dr Alex Bahar-Fuchs – The University of Melbourne

Dr Mor Nahum – The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 

How to apply

Information on how to apply can be found here.


Shape shifting molecules: using light to control and explore molecular structure and function

Two Jerusalem-Melbourne Joint PhD positions are available: one with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem as home institution and another with The University of Melbourne as home institution.  Candidates are required to spend a minimum of 12 months at the host institution.

Project Description:

Melbourne PhD Project
The Melbourne project is concerned with experimentally exploring the structural and optical properties of charged carbon clusters containing between 10 and 100 atoms. Carbon clusters in this size range usually have several coexisting structural isomers (chains, rings, bi-rings, fullerenes) that are predicted to possess radically different electronic properties and reactivity. This structural complexity for pure and doped carbon clusters presents significant opportunities in the realm of material science, but also experimental challenges for measuring and interpreting electronic and infrared spectra.

The PhD candidate will generate carbon clusters that are selected according to size and shape and measure their spectra using unique instrumentation developed by Bieske and his group, supported by substantial Australian Research Council funding. The ensuing spectroscopic information will help identify new classes of carbon bearing clusters with potential applications in solar cells and semiconductors, and is essential for assessing the presence of carbon clusters in interstellar and circumstellar regions of space. Understanding the electronic spectra and excited state dynamics of the target carbon clusters is challenging from a theoretical perspective and requires sophisticated electronic structure calculations that will be conducted by the PhD student in collaboration with Schapiro group. It is envisaged that the PhD candidate will spend 2 years in Melbourne measuring electronic and infrared spectra of carbon clusters and 1 year in Jerusalem working with Schapiro to model structures, electronic absorption spectra and excited state dynamics. The possible extension for the 4th year will be spent in Melbourne.

Jerusalem PhD Project
The Jerusalem portion of the project will focus on performing quantum chemical calculations to help validate experimental observations. The PhD candidate will begin by studying the same carbon structures determined as being important by the Bieske group. Studying carbon clusters is challenging due to the large number of isomers possible as the number of carbon atoms is increased. For example, the cluster of 10 carbon atoms can have over 29 minimum structures. The PhD candidate will begin by minimizing relevant structures using highly accurate simulations to determine their relative energies.

After optimization, the PhD candidate can then begin to study the electronic structure properties of each isomer. These include the excitation energies of each isomer, as well as each isomer’s vibrational frequencies and chemical reactivity. The excited state energetics will be obtained through multiple methodologies, such as time dependent density functional theory and coupled cluster calculations. These excitation energies can be converted into absorption spectra for comparison to the results obtained in the Bieske group. Likewise, the vibrational frequencies of each isomer can be determined theoretically through normal mode analysis on the minimized carbon structures. The vibrational frequencies can then be broadened for comparison to experimental FT-IR measurements. Lastly, the chemical reactivity of the various structures can be studied by modelling the gas-phase dynamics of the various carbon structures in conditions mimicking the interstellar medium.

Skills and requirements:

  • Demonstrated experience in the field of materials science
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of the team
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date)

Supervisors:

Prof Evan Bieske – The University of Melbourne

Prof Dr Igor Schapiro – The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 

How to apply

Information on how to apply can be found here.


Cell-scale MRI

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is an indispensable characterization technique, extensively used in chemical analysis, as well as in other fields (biology, physics). The imaging modality of this scheme, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has unparalleled capabilities in varied fields, and notably in biological and medical diagnostics. In essence, MRI uses pickup coils to measure magnetic signals generated by nuclear spins within the sample (usually from water molecules within our body in the medical case). Despite its obvious usefulness, the sensitivity and resolution of the measurement coils are insufficient to explore cellular-scale signals. Over the past decade, localized defects in diamond, namely nitrogen-vacancy (NV) color centers, have emerged as a promising platform for magnetic sensing. In short, the NV spin is sensitive to external magnetic fields, and can be readout optically, e.g. using a camera. While magnetic sensing can be relevant to many different applications, it has been demonstrated also in the context of MRI signals, and in certain cases achieved improved sensitivity and resolution compared to the standard MRI approach.
In this proposed project, led by the Prawer group from UoM, we will develop an integrated diamond chip suitable for deployment in a diamond-based MRI system, aimed at detecting MRI signals on the cellular level. Based on an optical magnetic microscope concept (see Figure 1), we will optimize the various aspects of the system for the cellular MRI goal: As can be seen below, the discrete component parts of such a system are well known. However, integration of all the components on a single chip which would allow for easy deployment in biological environments, has not yet been accomplished. This project, based on nanofabrication techniques developed at UoM, will aim to for such integration and early demonstration of sensitivity in in-vitro operation.

Figure 1: Custom-built Wide-field magnetic imaging microscope. The sample is placed on the surface of a diamond chip, which is implanted with a high density thin layer of NV centers near the surface. The diamond is attached to the cover-slip using immersion oil which is glued to the holder. Optical pumping green laser is incident through the bottom-polished side of the diamond surface using the objective in EPI mode. Coherent MW-field manipulation, which is created by an MW antenna, is located near the diamond surface containing the NV layer. The NV fluorescence passes through the diamond, the cover-slip and the dichroic mirror and is then imaged onto a camera using the objective and a tube lens.

The lead PhD candidate will:

• Optimize diamond chip in terms of thickness, either improving imaging resolution using ultrathin diamond chips (pioneered by the Prawer group), or thick diamond slabs allowing for side illumination (thus reducing potential adverse effects of illumination on the samples.

• Optimize NV center layer, in terms of quantum coherence properties, density, and depth. Through the expertise of the Prawer group we will consider approaches including ion implantation, delta-doping and overgrowth, surface termination and more.

• Optimize sensing protocols, based on commonly used MRI sequences and experiments performed using NVs. Study the effects of hyper-polarization schemes for enhanced sensitivity, in the context of realistic samples (e.g. might not be beneficial in scenarios involving fast diffusion). For example, a novel low magnetic field hyper-polarization protocol was recently introduced by us.

Figure 2: schematic of the low-magnetic field hyper-polarization scheme, named rNOVEL (refocused NOVEL), as it combines polarization transfer under the resonant Hartmann-Hahn condition with strong dynamical decoupling pulses.

 

Year 1: UoM – optimize the diamond substrate, nanofabrication and NV integration

Year 2: HUJI – learn and implement the MRI sensing techniques relevant for cellular MRI

Year 3: UoM – construct the system and perform initial measurements

 

Supervision Team:

UoM Prof Steven Prawer: s.prawer@unimelb.edu.au

School of Physics, Faculty of Science, The University of Melbourne

https://physics.unimelb.edu.au/home

HUJI Prof Nir Bar-Gill: bargill@phys.huji.ac.il

The Racah Institute of Physics, Faculty of Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

https://bargill.phys.huji.ac.il/

HUJI co-supervisor Prof Alex Retzker: retzker@phys.huji.ac.il

The Racah Institute of Physics, Faculty of Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 


Canine and feline leishmaniasis in Israel, its relationship to human leishmaniasis, co-infections, risk factors and drug resistance.

This joint PhD project will be based at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with a 12 month stay at the University of Melbourne.

Supervision Team: Professor Gad Baneth (Hebrew University of Jerusalem); Professor Rebecca Traub and Dr Vito Colella (University of Melbourne)

Project description: The leishmaniases are a group of diseases caused by Leishmania species which inflict three disease forms in humans; cutaneous, mucocutaneous and the fatal visceral leishmaniasis. Almost all species of Leishmania are zoonotic and have animal reservoirs, including the three species known to cause disease in Israel, Leishmania infantum, Leishmania tropica and Leishmania major, all transmitted by sand flies. The dog is the main reservoir for L. infantum and can also harbour L. tropica and L. major infections. Domestic cats have also been documented to be infected with these species. Furthermore, co-infections with other vector-borne pathogens have been shown to influence the course of Leishmania infection in dogs and cats, and may therefore be important risk factors for the establishment and progression of this infection and further dissemination to other animals and humans. Such co-infections include ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, mycoplasmosis, anaplasmosis, hepatozoonosis and viral infections. These agents, as well as leishmaniasis, are either a potential threat to establishing in Australia, or have already become endemic in it. The aim of the PhD project will be:
1. To map Leishmania spp. infection in dogs and cats in Israel and to evaluate environmental risk factors for this infection and the influence of co-infection of the disease.
2. To study drug resistance in Leishmania isolates from animals in Israel, as a risk factor for the spread of the disease. The Baneth lab has described and characterized resistance to allopurinol, the main drug used for treatment of canine leishmaniasis worldwide.

The Israel-based PhD student will perform a country-wide survey of canine and feline leishmaniasis and collect samples and demographic data to define risk factors, during his/her first phase of studies (12 months). In the project’s second phase, the student will study the detection of co-infections at UoM using the samples collected in Israel, testing for co-infections and their influence using the newly developed metabarcoding system at UoM (12 months). The third final 12-month phase of the study will be performed at the Hebrew U and include evaluation of the different risk factors for leishmaniasis, its association with the human disease using data on notifiable diseases from the Israeli Ministry of Health, and analysis of infection for drug resistance using molecular techniques developed in the Baneth lab.

How to Apply

Minimum entry requirements for a PhD at Melbourne are summarised here, including visa and English language requirements. For information on applying for this project, please see here. Applications should be sent to Professor Gad Baneth.

References: 1. Baneth, G., Yasur-Landau, D., Gilad, M., Nachum-Biala, Y., 2017. Canine leishmaniosis caused by Leishmania major and Leishmania tropica: comparative findings and serology. Parasit Vectors 10, 113.; 2. Huggins, L.G., Koehler, A.V., Ng-Nguyen, D., Wilcox, S., Schunack, B., Inpankaew, T., Traub, R.J., 2019a. Assessment of a metabarcoding approach for the characterisation of vector-borne bacteria in canines from Bangkok, Thailand. Parasit Vectors 12, 394.; 3. Huggins, L.G., Koehler, A.V., Ng-Nguyen, D., Wilcox, S., Schunack, B., Inpankaew, T., Traub, R.J., 2019b. A novel metabarcoding diagnostic tool to explore protozoan haemoparasite diversity in mammals: a proof-of-concept study using canines from the tropics. Sci Rep 9, 12644.; 4. Huggins, L.G., Koehler, A.V., Schunack, B., Inpankaew, T., Traub, R.J., 2020. A Host-Specific Blocking Primer Combined with Optimal DNA Extraction Improves the Detection Capability of a Metabarcoding Protocol for Canine Vector-Borne Bacteria. Pathogens 9. 5. Colella V, Nguyen VL, Tan DY, Lu N, Fang F, Zhijuan Y, Wang J, Liu X, Chen X, Dong J, Nurcahyo W, Hadi UK, Venturina V, Tong KBY, Tsai YL, Taweethavonsawat P, Tiwananthagorn S, Le TQ, Bui KL, Watanabe M, Rani PAMA, Annoscia G, Beugnet F, Otranto D, Halos L. 2020  Zoonotic Vectorborne Pathogens and Ectoparasites of Dogs and Cats in Eastern and Southeast Asia. Emerg Infect Dis.;26(6):1221-1233.


Novel metabarcoding diagnostics to safeguard against the incursion of emerging and novel canine and feline vector-borne zoonoses in Australia and Israel.

This joint PhD project will be based at the University of Melbourne, with a 12 month stay at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Supervision Team: Professor Rebecca Traub and Dr Vito Colella (University of Melbourne); Professor Gad Baneth (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Project description: Canine and feline vector-borne diseases (CVBDs) transmitted by ticks, fleas and biting-flies, are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in companion animals. Some of these pathogens are also responsible for several well-recognized infectious diseases that are capable of being transmitted to humans (termed ‘zoonoses’), throughout the globe. In recent years, CVBDs have emerged at accelerated rates owing to increased movement of pets, exacerbated by suboptimal efficacies of anti-parasite formulations, incursions of human dwellings into previously sparsely populated habitats, and climate change, that have permitted previously exotic vectors and their pathogens to establish in new environments. This has been particularly evident in Israel (Baneth et al., 2017) and more recently Australia (https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/ehrlichiosis). Although biosecurity pathways may appear rigorous, there are several limitations, including diagnostic, that impact on risk-mitigation strategies for exotic CVBDs entering Australia and Israel. Current diagnostic methods only target a limited number of specific pathogens and are unable to detect or identify the many exotic or novel vector-borne pathogens emerging at accelerated rates globally. Early detection and recognition of these pathogens is crucial to mitigate incursion and establishment of these VBDs in Australia and Israel.

The aim of this PhD project will be to:
1. Design a portable, metabarcoding diagnostic tool based on nanopore sequencing technology, capable of highly accurate, rapid and cost-effective detection and characterisation of all known canine, and feline vector-borne parasitic and bacterial diseases in real-time.
2. Validate the accuracy and precision of this metabarcoding diagnostic tool using positive-control samples or samples experimentally seeded with known quantities of targeted disease agents.
3. Verify and compare the diagnostic test parameters of the metabarcoding diagnostic tools to traditional ‘reference’ diagnostic assays using samples from ‘high risk’ Canidae and Felidae in Australia (feral dogs, feral cats, foxes) and Israel (stray dogs, wild foxes, wolves, jackals, and feral cats).

Aim 1 will be carried out by the PhD student at UoM under Prof Traub and Dr Colella’s guidance. Prof Traub’s laboratory has strong track-record and expertise in the development and validation of diagnostic assays, in particular, next-generation sequencing-based metabarcoding methods (mNGS) for pathogen detection (Huggins et al., 2019a, b; Huggins et al., 2020). Following completion of Aim 1 and part of Aim 2 (estimated 15 months), the student will be hosted by Prof Baneth’s group at HUJ for the next 12 months, as Prof Baneth’s laboratory has access to archived library of genomic DNA and clinical samples from a broad range of pathogens otherwise unattainable in Australia, where they will complete Aim 2 and part of Aim 3. The final 9 months of the PhD will be spent back in UoM completing Aim 3 (using archived samples at Prof Traub’s lab) and finalizing thesis submission.

References: 1. Baneth, G., Yasur-Landau, D., Gilad, M., Nachum-Biala, Y., 2017. Canine leishmaniosis caused by Leishmania major and Leishmania tropica: comparative findings and serology. Parasit Vectors 10, 113.; 2. Huggins, L.G., Koehler, A.V., Ng-Nguyen, D., Wilcox, S., Schunack, B., Inpankaew, T., Traub, R.J., 2019a. Assessment of a metabarcoding approach for the characterisation of vector-borne bacteria in canines from Bangkok, Thailand. Parasit Vectors 12, 394.; 3. Huggins, L.G., Koehler, A.V., Ng-Nguyen, D., Wilcox, S., Schunack, B., Inpankaew, T., Traub, R.J., 2019b. A novel metabarcoding diagnostic tool to explore protozoan haemoparasite diversity in mammals: a proof-of-concept study using canines from the tropics. Sci Rep 9, 12644.; 4. Huggins, L.G., Koehler, A.V., Schunack, B., Inpankaew, T., Traub, R.J., 2020. A Host-Specific Blocking Primer Combined with Optimal DNA Extraction Improves the Detection Capability of a Metabarcoding Protocol for Canine Vector-Borne Bacteria. Pathogens 9. 5. Colella V, Nguyen VL, Tan DY, Lu N, Fang F, Zhijuan Y, Wang J, Liu X, Chen X, Dong J, Nurcahyo W, Hadi UK, Venturina V, Tong KBY, Tsai YL, Taweethavonsawat P, Tiwananthagorn S, Le TQ, Bui KL, Watanabe M, Rani PAMA, Annoscia G, Beugnet F, Otranto D, Halos L. 2020  Zoonotic Vectorborne Pathogens and Ectoparasites of Dogs and Cats in Eastern and Southeast Asia. Emerg Infect Dis.;26(6):1221-1233.


Cross-linguistic Semantic and Syntactic Representation

This joint PhD project is based at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with a 12 month stay at the University of Melbourne.

Supervision Team: Dr Omri Abend, Hebrew University of Jersualem; Dr Lea Frermann, University of Melbourne

Project Description:

The technological and theoretical importance of cross-linguistic applicability in semantic and syntactic representation has long been recognized, but achieving this goal has proved extremely difficult. The project will make progress towards a definition of a semantic and syntactic scheme that can be applied consistently across languages, by building on two major bodies of work:

  1. At the lexical level, we will build on the expanding work on mapping the semantic spaces of different languages [17, 18, 19]. Despite considerable success and interest of the research community in these methods [20], and their value for downstream applications, such as the automatic compilation of a multilingual dictionary, the developed approaches suffer from making simplistic assumptions as to the nature of the mapping between the semantic spaces of different languages [21].
  2. At the sentence level, we will build on the Universal Dependencies scheme for syntactic representation [22], and the UCCA scheme [23] for semantic representation. Both approaches build on linguistic typological work, and have been applied to a number of languages. However, the schemes remain coarse-grained in their categories, and the relation between the sentence and lexical level remains mostly unexplored.

Studying Cross-linguistic Alignment and Divergence Patterns through Parallel Corpora: The development of the Universal Dependencies (UD) and UCCA annotation schemes provides a basis for statistical in-depth studies of cross-linguistic syntactic divergences based on data from parallel corpora. This constitutes an improvement over traditional feature-based studies that treat languages as vectors of categorical features (as languages are represented, e.g., in databases such as WALS or AutoTyp). However, existing studies are mostly based on summary statistics over parallel corpora, such as relative frequencies of different word-order patterns, and do not reflect fine- grained cross linguistic mappings that are very important both for linguistic typology and practical NLP applications. For example,this methodology cannot directly detect that English nominal compounds and nominal-modification constructions are often translated with Russian adjectival-modification constructions or that English adjectival-modification and nominal-modification constructions routinely give rise to Korean relative clauses.

Preliminary work in Omri’s lab has manually word-aligned a subset of the Parallel Universal Dependencies corpus collection and conducted a quantitative and qualitative study based on it. The proposed project will not only extend the analysis to additional language pairs and to the use of UCCA categories, but also refine the representation with finer-grained distinctions, based on other sentence level schemes, such as AMR [24]. Moreover, the project will extend the analysis to include differences in the lexical semantics of the two languages, using an induced mapping between the distributional spaces of these languages.

Richer Mappings of Distributional Spaces across Languages. A complementary effort to studying the semantic mappings across languages by aligning parallel corpora, is aligning the vector space representations induced from monolingual data in each language. We will go beyond current approaches that attempt to find a global mapping of distributional spaces, mostly in terms of orthogonal linear transformations between the spaces. Instead, we will adopt a non-linear approach, based on topological data science theory.

The project will also seek to study the relation between syntactic and lexical differences between languages, with the goal of understanding how both types of differences shape the geometry and topology of the embedding spaces of different languages.

References

[17] Tomas Mikolov, Quoc Le, and Ilya Sutskever. Exploiting similarities among languages for machine translation. 09 2013.
[18] Mikel Artetxe, Gorka Labaka, and Eneko Agirre. A robust self-learning method for fully unsupervised crosslingual mappings of word embeddings. pages 789–798, 01 2018.
[19] Alexis Conneau, Guillaume Lample, Marc’Aurelio Ranzato, Ludovic Denoyer, and Hervé Jégou. Word translation without parallel data. arXiv preprint arXiv:1710.04087, 2017.
[20] Sebastian Ruder, Ivan Vuli´c, and Anders Søgaard. A survey of cross-lingual word embedding models. Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, 65:569–631, 08 2019.
[21] Anders Søgaard, Sebastian Ruder, and Ivan Vuli´c. On the limitations of unsupervised bilingual dictionary induction. 05 2018.
[22] Joakim Nivre, Marie-Catherine de Marneffe, Filip Ginter, Yoav Goldberg, Jan Hajiˇc, Christopher D. Manning, Ryan McDonald, Slav Petrov, Sampo Pyysalo, Natalia Silveira, Reut Tsarfaty, and Daniel Zeman. Universal dependencies v1: A multilingual treebank collection. In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC’16), pages 1659–1666, Portorož, Slovenia, May 2016. European Language Resources Association (ELRA).
[23] Omri Abend and Ari Rappoport. Universal conceptual cognitive annotation (ucca). In ACL (1), pages 228–238, 2013.
[24] Laura Banarescu, Claire Bonial, Shu Cai, Madalina Georgescu, Kira Griffitt, Ulf Hermjakob, Kevin Knight, Philipp Koehn, Martha Palmer, and Nathan Schneider. Abstract meaning representation for sembanking. In Proceedings of the 7th linguistic annotation workshop and interoperability with discourse, pages 178–186, 2013.


Scalable Computational Cognitive Models of the Bilingual Lexicon

This joint PhD project is based at the University of Melbourne, with a 12 month stay at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Supervision Team: Dr Lea Frermann, University of Melbourne; Dr Omri Abend, Hebrew University of Jersualem

Project Description:

Learning a second language (L2) is a major cognitive effort, yet humans are able to reliably acquire languages in addition to their native language (L1) with remarkable success, and decades of research have revealed intricate shifts in conceptual and linguistic representations caused by second language acquisition (SLA). This project will leverage machine learning (ML) and  natural language processing (NLP) methods, as well as the availability of large-scale naturalistic data sets of learner language, in order to investigate the structure and development of the bilingual lexicon. We will expose established models of SLA to large corpora of native and learner language. This project has a dual nature: First, it will contribute novel insights to the validity of different SLA models by exposing them to diverse and naturalistic data, and testing them on a larger scale. Secondly, we will utilize our findings to inform cross-lingual transfer of NLP models, i.e., the automatic adaptation of a model trained on one language to a different one.

Scalable Models of Lexical and Conceptual Representations in SLA. We will draw on recent developments in distributional and contextual language modelling, and incorporate mechanisms of lexical structure and development in SLA derived from established psycholinguistic models of bilingualism . We will evaluate our models on a broader scale than previously done, with the aim of drawing more robust conclusions, and separating universal phenomena from language pair-specific ones. We will test our models on predicting controlled behavioral data as well as on predicting naturalistic learner data (observed in L2 essays).

Informed Priors for Cross-lingual Model Transfer. We will incorporate our insights on global and language-pair specific shifts in lexical representations as priors in cross-lingual model transfer, hypothesizing that they will enable more effective transfer models. Cross-lingual domain adaptation, where models trained on one language (typically data-rich) are transferred to a different language (typically data-poorer), is an important, yet open, research problem in NLP. We will experiment with ways of incorporating priors in order to constrain and guide the adaptation process in an informed way.

 

 

 


Diamond sensor for Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)

Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), and radicals in general, play a fundamental role in a broad range of chemical and biological processes, usually as catalysts and mediators of various reactions. For example, ROS are crucial as catalysts in clean energy production, such as batteries and light-harvesting complexes, and are instrumental in cellular and inter-cellular disease processes, such as inflammation. Detecting and quantifying ROS dynamics is a challenging task, as these molecules are usually short-lived due to their catalytic behavior. This is usually achieved by using spin traps or modified fluorescence markers, which act as indirect indications of ROS activity. However, due to the need to introduce them into the biological system and since they are essentially side-effects of the reactive process, the resulting measurements can affect the process itself, and their quantitative analysis is limited. The proposed project is based on the fact these radicals have free spins, and therefore introduce magnetic noise into the environment. Such noise can be detected and characterized by the diamond-NV platform, through various control schemes referred to as noise spectroscopy.

Figure 3: Schematic for noise spectroscopy schemes based on CPMG and DYSCO: green indicates a laser pulse, orange indicates a π or π/2 pulse, while yellow and blue indicate microwave-pulse blocks composed of 4π pulses with the denoted phases (in which ϕ is a function of the block number).

In this project we will realize a biologically compatible noise spectroscopy system for studying ROS dynamics:

• Develop and optimize noise spectroscopy schemes relevant for ROS measurements, such as we have demonstrated recently using continuous and pulsed control. For this purpose, we will benefit from a collaboration with Uri Banin of the Chemistry Dept. at HUJI, who provides us with specifically designed nano-particles that controllably create ROS as a function of optical illumination (using 405nm light).

• Optimize diamond substrate for these measurements in terms of various parameters, including diamond structure and nanofabrication, NV integration, optical coupling.

• Construct an integrated, biologically compatible ROS sensor, and demonstrate measurements of ROS concentration as a function of controlled stimuli. The proposed project will combine the expertise of the Prawer group in terms of the diamond structure and NV integration, with the noise spectroscopy expertise of the BarGill group (including the collaboration with the Banin group).

 

Joint Supervision

UoM Prof Steven Prawer – School of Physics, Faculty of Science, The University of Melbourne

Website: https://physics.unimelb.edu.au/home

HUJI Prof Nir Bar-Gill – The Racah Institute of Physics, Faculty of Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Website: https://bargill.phys.huji.ac.il/

HUJI co-supervisor Prof Alex Retzker – The Racah Institute of Physics, Faculty of Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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