PhD Position in Signal Processing for Music Analysis

Catholic University of Leuven Department of Electrical Engineering

The Stadius Centre for Dynamical Systems, Signal Processing and Data Analytics is part of the Electrical Engineering (ESAT) Department at KU Leuven and hosts over 100 researchers. The digital signal processing team headed by Prof. Marc Moonen and Prof. Toon van Waterschoot is a subgroup of the Stadius Centre, in which signal processing research is carried out in the context of audio, speech, acoustics, and communications applications. The digital signal processing team currently hosts about 25 international PhD and postdoc researchers and participates in several nationally and internationally funded research projects, ranging from fundamental research to industry-funded applied research. KU Leuven strongly values research integrity, actively supports open access and reproducible research, and strives for diversity and gender balance in its research and education programs.


A PhD position in music signal processing and analysis is available at the KU Leuven Electrical Engineering Department (ESAT), in the frame of the recently granted research project "Understanding Music-Based Interventions to Encourage Social-Emotional Development in Groups of Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (UNMUTED)" funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). The PhD research will be carried out under the supervision of Prof. Toon van Waterschoot and Dr. Jared Houghtaling, and will involve fundamental and applied research on music feature extraction, source separation, and statistical analysis of music performances. Throughout the PhD project, an intense collaboration with the Music Therapy research group at the LUCA School of Arts (Prof. Katrien Foubert and Prof. Jos De Backer) will be pursued. The research will be executed in an international team of audio signal processing researchers at the Stadius Centre for Dynamical Systems, Signal Processing and Data Analytics of KU Leuven. Initially a one-year position is offered, however it is anticipated that the position will be extended to a total of four years, which is the standard duration of a PhD research project at KU Leuven.


Approximately 10% of adult psychiatric inpatients in Europe are individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Current therapies for these inpatients emphasize cognitive adjustment and do not account for specific qualities of autism. Recent research emphasizes the need to integrate modern therapies in a non-verbal, affective-embodied oriented framework. One such framework, music-based intervention, has become a powerful tool for enhancing social-emotional competence in children with ASD, but little is known about the effects of this approach on adults with ASD. This project, therefore, aims to renew scientific knowledge about the ways in which music-based interventions foster social-emotional development in a population of adults with ASD. In contrast with current studies that focus on outcome measures or success rates of interventions, we will target a mechanistic and multimodal understanding of the key components of action, and their processes, in music-based interventions. We propose a four-step, multidisciplinary plan that expands on our ongoing work in which we will (1) collect audio recordings and other non-musical information from group-based music interventions, (2) extract relevant features from those data, (3) create models that describe developmental processes within single interventions and across interventions, and (4) use those models to inform and improve future music-based interventions, and arts-based interventions in general.

The PhD researcher will

- carry out fundamental and applied research on music signal processing, involving algorithm design and implementation, in-situ music performance recordings, experimental validation, and statistical analysis;
- monitor the work plan of her/his individual research project and make sure that milestones are achieved and deliverables are finalized in a timely manner;
- actively participate in research meetings with other researchers involved in the UNMUTED project;
- take part in the research meetings, seminars, etc. at the Stadius Centre;
- enroll in a doctoral training program at the Arenberg Doctoral School, and adhere to the doctoral school's coursework requirements for PhD researchers;
- assist in the supervision of Master thesis students;
- perform a limited amount of teaching activities (max. 3h per week).


  • Candidates must hold a Master degree in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, or Music Technology (or equivalent), have a solid mathematical background (e.g. in matrix algebra) and have taken specialized courses in at least one of the following disciplines: digital signal processing, music technology, audio signal processing. Candidates who are in the final phase of their Master program are equally encouraged to apply, and should mention their expected graduation date.
  • Research experience (e.g. through Master thesis work or research internships) in music signal processing is considered a strong asset.
  • Experience with scientific computing in Matlab, Python, or Julia is required.
  • Excellent proficiency in the English language is required, as well as good communication skills, both oral and written.


  • A high-level and exciting international research environment.
  • A strong involvement in a fundamental research project with potentially high international visibility.
  • A PhD title from one of Europe's top universities (after approximately 4 years of successful research).
  • A thorough scientific education in the frame of a doctoral training program.
  • A competitive salary or tax-free PhD grant.
  • The possibility to participate in local as well as international courses, workshops and conferences.
  • The possibility to perform research visits to internationally renowned research labs in Europe.
  • A one-year position with the possibility of extension for a second, third, and fourth year.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Toon van Waterschoot, tel.: +32 16 32 17 88, mail: Prospective candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, since interviews may already be organized before the application deadline. Please submit:
(1) a motivation letter with a statement of skills and research interests (max. 2 pages)
(2) a curriculum vitae, including transcripts and possibly GRE/TOEFL results
(3) the names and contact information of 1-2 references

You can apply for this job no later than January 18, 2021 via the
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: January 18, 2021
  • Tags: Elektrotechniek