PhD Position in Swarm Robotics
VU University of Amsterdam Department of Computer Science
Netherlands

Are you interested in working in an exciting interdisciplinary field at the interface of artificial intelligence, robotics, physics and biology? Do you have a MSc degree?
Then Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam would like to get to know you. 

Location: AMSTERDAM

FTE: 1

Job description

We seek a new colleague who will work on a swarm robotics project called BEAR (Biologically-inspired Evolutionary Advanced Robots), funded by the Advanced Technology Research Council (Abu Dhabi), in the context of a collaboration between Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Technology Innovation Institute (Abu Dhabi). The position is for 4 years.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Within the framework of this project, we are advertising for either a PhD or a postdoctoral researcher. In the latter case, the position will be for three years. We will hire only one candidate. In case a very suitable candidate applies for the position of a postdoctoral researcher, we will not hire a PhD student. See also vacancy #6925.

The project revolves around the automated design of collective behaviours for robot swarms, where robots have to operate without human-made external infrastructure (e.g. no GNSS, base stations, markers, external workstation, etc …). The focus is in using automated design method (such as evolution, learning, up to the more recent generative approaches such as Turning Learning) to design controllers for robots that, when work together, can solve a collective task. One possibility could be to deploy a swarm solution that does require specific technology (e.g. GPS) and then synthetize with machine learning a controller able to “imitate” the deployed controller but without given technology (GPS in this example).

The project will require work to be performed in simulation, possibly also with mathematical models, but most importantly also on real robot platforms. Specifically, the platform of choice needs to operate “not on the trivial land environment” (e.g. nano drones or simple underwater devices are an example of accepted platforms).

Your duties

  • Develop/use realistic simulation models of real robot platforms (e.g. nano drones with dynamics)
  • Implement machine learning or evolutionary methods to synthesize optimal controllers
  • Port controllers on real hardware, design realistic experimental setups, perform real robots experiments
  • Analyze results and logs of data
  • [Optional] Model the collective dynamics using mathematical tools to perform predictions given first principles
  • Supervise computer practicals for MSc students, and help in teaching (approx. 5%)

Requirements

  • A MSc degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Robotics, or related
  • Strong interest and/or expertise in interdisciplinary research, robotics, and machine learning
  • Experience in C++ and Python
  • Experience/familiarity with at least one robotic simulator (e.g. Gazebo, Airsim, ARGoS)
  • [Desired] Experience with at least one real robot platform
  • A mindset of a practical problem solver combined with determination to solve practical problems
  • Good communication skills
  • Good skills in writing scientific reports

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,395 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,061 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: PhD student is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for 1 FTE.

The initial employment contract will affect a period of 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of a further 3 years.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment 
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus 
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses 
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

Diversity

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science

The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.

About the Computer Science department

The VU Department of Computer Science has approximately 170 staff members, including 35 tenured staff and 40-50 PhD students. Lecturers form a critical and essential basis for the functioning of the department, providing foundational education that helps determine the future of our students.

Our research and our students are diverse, covering disciplines such as Social sciences, Humanities, Economics, and Bioinformatics. Currently, we offer programs in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Information Sciences (BSc and MSc), and Bioinformatics and Systems Biology (MSc), with a total of around 1000 new students each year.

About the Computational Intelligence Group

The CI group, led by Prof. Gusz Eiben, currently has 3 professors with expertise in evolutionary computation and evolutionary robotics, swarm robotics and complex systems, and machine learning. There are 10+ junior researchers working on this inter-related topics, and technical as well as friendly social interactions among them is not only encouraged but also the normality.

Application

Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until  December 31, 2020. 

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Eliseo Ferrante
Position: Assistant Professor
E-mail: e.ferrante@vu.nl
Telephone: 020 59 86413

 or

Name: Gusz Eiben
Position: Full Professor
E-mail: a.e.eiben@vu.nl
Telephone: 020 59 87758

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