This project results from the collaboration between (1) the ETH AI center, which conducts fundamental research for the advancement of artificial intelligence and its applications, and (2) the molecular plant breeding groupat ETH, which develops molecular methods for crop breeding that contribute to sustainable agriculture, and  (3) WageningenUniversity and Research (WUR), which is a world leader in agricultural and food sciences research.

Project background

In the coming decades, the world food production system will undergo severe stress. Forecasts predict a 70% increase in demand for plant-based products during this time. Meeting this demand is impossible with current crop varieties, and our rapidly changing climate complicates this challenge further.

Breeding programs are critical to developing climate-change resilient crops. However, their complexity is rising due to the modern selection and mating schemas. Optimal data-driven control via reinforcement learning (RL) can substantially improve their outcomes by automatically exploring their exponential decision space. To this end, an RL-compatible breeding environment is crucial.

Job description

We are looking for a machine learning research engineer to join our team by the end of June 2022 for 6 months. In this role, you will have the chance to work in the rapidly expanding field at the intersection of data science and sustainable food production. In particular, you will:

  • Survey the literature on reinforcement learning for crop breeding programs as well as existing crop breeding simulation software.
  • Build an open-source reinforcement learning environment (e.g., based on OpenAI gym) using this breeding simulation software as a back-end.
  • Benchmark state-of-the-art breeding schemes in this environment.
  • Develop a meaningful representation for the action and feature spaces of the breeding program.
  • Develop a case study for crop development for climate change adaptation.
  • Release the environment for wide use in the AI and breeding community.

As part of this role, you should be willing to travel for short visit periods to Wageningen (Netherlands, travel costs will be covered).

Your profile

  • BSc or higher degree in computer science with a focus on machine learning.
  • Expert in Python and common ML packages, e.g., Sklearn, StableBaselines, Pytorch, Wandb, proficiency in R is a plus.
  • Software engineering experience.
  • Interest in crop breeding and bioinformatics.
  • Proficient with the English language.

We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Brief motivation letter
  • CV
  • Link to your GitHub/GitLab profile
  • Reference contacts

This project is scheduled to start by the end of June. Therefore, we process applications on a rolling basis. If your profile fits the description, we will contact you for a further interview.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr Luca Corinzia, email (no applications).

Apply online now

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

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