PhD Position Autonomous Reasoning on Robots Operating in the Real, Open World – TU Delft – Delft

  • Delft

TU Delft

Job description

You will work within the OpenBots laboratory creating autonomous robots that operate in the real world with various other PhDs and engineers. The OpenBots laboratory aims to develop a common sense capability for robots making them able to understand their surroundings and plan proper actions to execute their inspection task, even when part of their surrounding world is unknown and dynamic. The inspection task deals with a robot walking around a perimeter and, meanwhile, detecting abnormal events based on vision or sound, after which a detailed investigation of the siutation might be required. The common sense capabililty that we develop shall allow the robot to complete similar inspection tasks in different (potentially changing) environments, such as governmental buildings, industrial plants, or train tracks. Our developments shall follow the latest achievements in artificial intelligence, world modelling, knowledge representations, mission planning and motion planning, where each team member has its own specialization.

Your research will be related to world modelling and knowledge representation, i.e., creating the robot’s situational awareness, assuming that it is able to detect and observe individual objects and events through its camera and microphone. More specifically, you will study and develop algorithms for managing the robot’s information based on these observations and based on a predefined, or learned, knowledge structure. Since our robots will operate in the real, open world, incoming information will be corrupted by noise and mistakes. Therefore, it is important that information is managed by combining evidences related to the observations with logic and symbolic reasoning, like a Bayesian network or Markov logic networks. However, to cope with the unknowns it might be essential to replace Bayes’ principles with, for example, possiblity theory. In addition, we expect to develop deductive reasoning so that when the robot encounters an unknown situation it may rely on general knowledge/models, and plan experiments to either accept or falsify the application of such knowledge/models to the unknown situation. Finally, you will also study and develop algorithms that extract a situational graph representing the current situation of the robot, or its near-future. Situational graphs shall be used for task planning of the robot and should thus contain which task can be carried our where, for example through inductive reasoning on the available information along with patterns in such information that may be linked to a task-capability of the robot.

The OpenBots project is being carried out in a team of 5 PhD students, 3 at the Delft University of Technology (where this vacancy is one of such PhDs) and 2 at the University of Amsterdam. You will work 3 days a week at the university and the other 2 days you will work with all other 5 PhDs at one of the external partners being TNO and the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee where a physical lab environment is available. The project is carried out with supervisors from the Cognitive Robotics Group of the Delft University of Technology (Dr. J. Sijs, Dr. C. Hernandez Corbato and Prof. J. Alonso-Mora) and the Video and Image Sense Lab of the University of Amsterdam (Prof. Cees Snoek).     


Need to haves:

  • Graduated in one of these fields: System and Controls, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Mechanical/Electrical Engineering or Applied Mathematics (or related).
  • Interest in robotics, artificial intelligence and data science.
  • Demonstrable experience in world modeling, machine learning, probabilistic reasoning and logic reasoning.
  • Solid mathematics foundations, especially statistics, linear algebra and discrete mathematics (graphs, logic);
  • Team player and willing to work in a multidisciplinary team of engineers, technicians and scientists.
  • Programming skills using languages such as Python/C++, as well as robotic tools, such as ROS and Gazebo.
  • You are highly motivated, independent, and creative.
  • Good communication, presentation and writing skills and proficient command of English.

Nice to haves:

  • Experience with publishing scientific work.
  • Experience with embedded software and hardware.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the .

Conditions of employment

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

The starting date is flexible. Since the PhD is partly conducted at the external parties TNO and the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, that follow strict policies on handling sensitive information, please note that a security assessment will be part of the application procedure and that it may take anything from 10 weeks up to 5 months before a contract can be offered.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged.

For international applicants, TU Delft has the . This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core  and we actively  to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

Faculty Mechanical Engineering

From chip to ship. From machine to human being. From idea to solution. Driven by a deep-rooted desire to understand our environment and discover its underlying mechanisms, research and education at the ME faculty focusses on fundamental understanding, design, production including application and product improvement, materials, processes and (mechanical) systems.

ME is a dynamic and innovative faculty with high-tech lab facilities and international reach. It’s a large faculty but also versatile, so we can often make unique connections by combining different disciplines. This is reflected in ME’s outstanding, state-of-the-art education, which trains students to become responsible and socially engaged engineers and scientists. We translate our knowledge and insights into solutions to societal issues, contributing to a sustainable society and to the development of prosperity and well-being. That is what unites us in pioneering research, inspiring education and (inter)national cooperation.

Click  to go to the website of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Do you want to experience working at our faculty? These  will introduce you to some of our researchers and their work.

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