PhD Studentship in the Centre of Data Innovation Research


  • Qualification type: PhD
  • Subject area: Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
  • Location/Campus: College Lane Campus, Hatfield
  • Start date: 1 October 2024
  • Closing date: Preference will be given to applications received before 1 February 2024
  • Duration: Full Time -  3.5 years.

The successful candidate will join the Centre of Data Innovation Research and interact closely with the Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (MTP) research group. CoDIR is an exciting new multi-disciplinary research centre that combines expertise across mathematics, theoretical physics, astrophysics and computer science.

Project outline

Towards semantic learning in large language models with applied category theory

Large language models (LLMs) are the latest hot topic in AI research, inside and outside of academia. They show particular promise in transforming productivity in a wide range of sectors, and as these models increase in scale, we can expect to see fascinating ‘emergent’ behaviour possibly leading to new utility and applications. Fundamentally, LLMs are trained on a large corpus of linguistic data, learning patterns across the hierarchy of language (letters, words, sentences, etc.) that encode a probability space. Ultimately, this learning can be exploited to allow users to interact with the knowledgebase in a natural, linguistic manner. ChatGPT is an example of such a tool, which has captured the imagination of the world and led to a new AI boom. However, current training methods are purely statistical and do not encode semantic and grammatical information that could be essential to performance and interpretability. In this project you will address this issue by exploring how a categorical approach could be utilised in the training (and interpretation) of LLMs, with a goal of developing new techniques that will help these models to better represent human language.


Entry requirements

Candidates should hold or expect to obtain a good first degree in mathematics, physics or a closely related subject. A masters' degree may be desirable. The University also expects international applicants to have an IELTS (English proficiency) score of 6.5 or above.


  • UK and International Students

How to apply

To apply, a completed application form, along with copies of higher education certificates, transcripts and two letters of reference, should be emailed to Doctoral College Admissions before the closing date. You should arrange for your referees to write separately using the form provided and send their reference via email directly to the Doctoral College.

  • Interviews will take place in late February/early March.
  • For informal enquires please email Prof  Jim Geach.

Funding information

These studentships are open to both UK and international candidates. They are normally awarded for three years and six months, and cover both the fees and an annual stipend of around £18,622 (tax-free).