PhD: Imitation learning and inverse control Delft University of Technology, Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering Netherlands

PhD: Imitation learning and inverse control

Department/faculty: Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering

Level: University Graduate

Working hours: 38-40 hours weekly

Contract: 4 years

Salary: 2266 - 2897 euros monthly (full-time basis)

Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering


The 3mE Faculty (Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering) trains committed engineering students, PhD candidates and post-doctoral researchers in groundbreaking scientific research in the fields of mechanical, maritime and materials engineering. 3mE is the epitome of a dynamic, innovative faculty, with a European scope that contributes demonstrable economic and social benefits.

The main focus of the Cognitive Robotics department is the development of intelligent robots and vehicles that will advance mobility, productivity and quality of life. Our mission is to bring robotic solutions to human-inhabited environments, focusing on research in the areas of machine perception, motion planning and control, machine learning, automatic control and physical interaction of intelligent machines with humans. We combine fundamental research with work on physical demonstrators in areas such as self-driving vehicles, collaborative industrial robots, mobile manipulators and haptic interfaces. Strong collaborations exist with cross-faculty institutes TU Delft Robotics Institute and TU Delft Transport Institute), our national robotic ecosystem (RoboValley, Holland Robotics) and international industry and academia.


Job description
The goal is to instruct robots by example how the task should be performed. We will rely on human demonstrations using skeleton tracking or motion capture rather than on kinesthetic demonstrations. The trajectories of the end-effector(s), as well as associated force and compliance parameters will be learned for individual sub-tasks. Direct mapping from human demonstrations to a robot is not always efficient due to different embodiments, hence we rather want to extract the priors and the general strategies for tasks as well as the objective functions. Instead of directly guiding the behavior of the robot, we can update the task specifications by estimating the intended user goal via an inverse control problem.

This vacancy is part of the FlexCRAFT program funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The goal of the program is to develop new robotics solutions for agriculture and food processing, where robots must be able to handle a substantial variation in shape, size and hardness of the different products, which is still a major challenge for the current robotics technology. The research aims at developing generic skills for robots to enable them to perform operations like automated harvesting of tomatoes, processing and packaging of meat and the packaging of bags of crisps and boxes of biscuits. The FlexCRAFT program builds on a unique consortium of universities and companies including: Wageningen Universiteit & Research, Eindhoven University of Technology, Delft University of Technology, University of Twente, University of Amsterdam, ABB, AgriFoodTech Platform, Aris BV, BluePrint Automation, Cellar Land, Cerescon, Demcon, Festo, GMV, Houdijk Holland, Marel Stork Poultry Processing, Maxon Motor, Priva, Protonic Holland, Rijk Zwaan, and 3DUniversum.


The candidate has a very good MSc degree in systems and control, mechanical engineering, applied mathematics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, electrical engineering, computer science, or a related field. The candidate must have strong analytical skills and must be able to work at the intersection of several research domains. A very good command of the English language is required, as well as excellent communication skills. Candidates having exhibited their ability to perform research in robotics and/or machine learning are especially encouraged to apply.


Conditions of employment
TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount for health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. An International Children’s Centre offers childcare and an international primary school. Dual Career Services offers support to accompanying partners. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.

As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment; an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor; and a Doctoral Education Programme aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills. Please visit for more information.


Information and application
If you have specific questions about this position, please contact Dr. Jens Kober, e-mail: Please do not send application emails here, but use the specified address below.

To apply, please prepare:

a letter of motivation explaining why you are the right candidate for this project,

a detailed CV,

a complete record of Bachelor and Master courses (including grades),

your Master’s Thesis (at least as draft),

any publications, and a list of projects you have worked on with brief descriptions of your contributions (max 2 pages), and

the names and contact addresses of two or three references.


All these items should be combined in one PDF document. Applications should be submitted by email at the earliest convenience to When applying for this position, please refer to vacancy number 3mE18-81. The call for applications will remain open until the ideal candidate is found. The earliest starting date is 1 March 2019.

Applications for this position will also be automatically considered for the second FlexCraft position “Force-interaction and bi-manual control”.

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Engineeroxy


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