PhD Position in Requirements Engineering and Software Testing

Utrecht University Department of Information and Computing Sciences

PhD Position on Requirements Engineering and Software Testing (1.0 FTE)

Job description

The AUTOLINK Project

The PhD position is in the context of the AUTOLINK project, which has the aim to explore the synergies between requirements engineering and software testing toward their seeming integration into agile contexts. AUTOLINK will propose techniques that assist practitioners in increasing the quality of their software by testing it against the requirements, in an unobtrusive manner and with low cost and effort.

AUTOLINK employs user stories and acceptance criteria for expressing requirements, a pervasively used notation that compactly and precisely depicts the requirement from the user perspective. For testing, to avoid the writing and maintenance of test scripts, we will build upon scriptless testing, an emerging theory for testing at the user interaction level. This approach employs intelligent agents that mimic the user and decide what to test next through different action selection mechanisms.

Starting from the background research and tools of two collaborating research groups at Utrecht University and at Open Universiteit, AUTOLINK will build and experiment with automated software tools that:
establish a set of trace links between requirements and software, via natural language processing;
enable the effortless testing of requirements, through automated scriptless testing, and;
increase the value over time by improving trace link accuracy and test effectiveness, via machine learning.

To gather empirical evidence on the effectiveness of our tools and techniques, AUTOLINK relies on in-vivo case studies within collaborating software companies such as Mendix, ING Bank, TestCompass, and AXINI.

Within the AUTOLINK project, we are hiring two PhD students. This opening describes the PhD position at Utrecht University, with a focus on requirements engineering. For the PhD position with a focus on software testing, please see the opening at the Open Universiteit: PhD Candidate. Both PhD students in this project will be physically located at Utrecht University, so to allow effective collaboration on the research.

PhD Position at Utrecht University

You will conduct theoretical and empirical research in the RE-Lab in the Department of Information and Computing Sciences at Utrecht University, under the primary supervision of Dr. Fabiano Dalpiaz. In particular, you will investigate the development of automated (machine and deep learning) techniques for linking software requirements with the relevant components of a software system. This vital information is often missing as developers do not have or allocate sufficient time to documentation activities, making it hard to determine whether certain requirements are met.

To do so, you will focus on three major tasks starting from collections of requirements, collected from industrial partners, that are expressed as user stories and acceptance criteria:
Extracting behavioural models from requirements, turning natural text into the automated generation of precise actions and reactions of the system.
Establishing trace links between the behavioural model and the actual system behaviour that is deduced from the execution of the system.
Maintaining trace links via machine and deep learning. To improve the accuracy of the trace links generated in the previous tasks, you will be building automated classifiers that predict whether unseen elements (expected behaviour vs. actual behaviour) should be traced to one another.


We are looking for motivated candidates to join the AUTOLINK project. You are equipped with a critical mindset and recognise yourself in the following qualifications:

  • A Master’s degree in Computer Science, Information Science or related field;
  • Interest in conducting research in the field of Software Engineering;
  • demonstrated collaboration and communication skills with an independent outlook in defining and solving research problems;
  • demonstrated programming skills (Java and Python are a plus) with experience in building system prototypes for demonstrating proof of concept;
  • proficiency in English, both in speaking and writing.


We offer an exciting opportunity to participate in the AUTOLINK project and to join established researchers in the field of requirements engineering (Dr. Fabiano Dalpiaz in the RE-Lab at Utrecht University) and software testing (Prof.dr. Tanja Vos and the TESTAR team at Open Universiteit). You will collaborate with our industrial partners, which include ING Bank, Mendix, TestCompass, and AXINI. You will get the chance to present your work at leading international conferences and in international scientific journals. Personal and professional training courses are offered in the Graduate School.

In particular, we offer:

  • A full-time position for 4 years;
  • A full-time gross salary ranging from € 2541,- to €3247,- in scale P;
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • A pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.
  • In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

For more information, please visit working at the Faculty of Science.

About the organization

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Department of Information and Computing Sciences is nationally and internationally renowned for its fundamental and applied research in computer science and information science. In our constantly changing (digital) society, the Department of Information and Computing Sciences is constantly looking for new, realistic ways to push the boundaries of both science and social application. We contribute to innovative information technologies through the development and application of new concepts, theories, algorithms, and software methods. Relevant areas of interdisciplinary research include Game Research, Foundations of Complex Systems, Applied Data Science, and Artificial Intelligence.

At the Faculty of Science, there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects. For more information, please watch the video Working at the Faculty of Science.

Additional information

If you have any questions that you’d like us to answer, please contact Dr Fabiano Dalpiaz ( associate professor in the Department of Information and Computing Sciences) via

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have become enthusiastic about this role, the simply respond via the "Apply" button!

Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your Curriculum Vitae;
  • copy of your MSc diploma and transcripts;
  • copy of your MSc. Thesis;
  • list of accepted or submitted publications, if any;
  • names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references.

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone else who may be interested, please forward this vacancy to them.

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The application deadline is