PhD Position on Integrated Identification and Control for Mechatronic Systems
Catholic University of Leuven

You will be embedded in the MECO (Motion Estimation Control and Optimization) research team of the KU Leuven Department of Mechanical Engineering. The MECO team focusses on the identification, analysis and control of mechatronic systems such as autonomous guided vehicles, robots, and machine tools. It combines theoretical innovations with experimental validations. The theoretical research benefits from the team’s expertise on numerical optimization, while MECO’s practical knowhow and industrial collaboration are supported by its participation as part of the DMMS core lab in Flanders Make - the strategic research center for the manufacturing industry in Flanders.


The system identification and control community are largely disconnected, and hence model characteristics important in control design (e.g. model structures appropriate for certain control approaches, accuracy in a specific frequency domain, model simplicity, model uncertainty bounds) are not considered by most identification approaches.  In order to cope with the high complexity (Multi-Input, Multi-Output (MIMO); non-linearity; constrained actuators; uncertainties … ) of industrial mechatronic systems, control design and system identification need to be more integrated: system identification and model structure selection must be oriented towards later control development, relation between control performance and model accuracy needs to be understood better, assessment of control performance needs to be traced back to controller type selection and/or model improvement.

In this research you will develop a methodology and software that allows for an integrated system identification and controller approach. This software supports the iterative controller development process in which:

  • suitability and quality of models and controllers will be assessed as well as their mutual fit,
  • model structures will be selected and models identified, and
  • controller structures selected and model-based controllers developed.

In this iterative process, choices will be made on how to improve the control design or the model for the controller.

More specifically, you will work on techniques to assess closed-form controllers and MPC-like controllers and determine the key tuning parameters that affect their performance and robustness. Key technology of this assessment is parametric optimization. To support the assessment of MPC-like controllers, you will also develop a user-friendly software tool to quickly and semi-automatically set up an MPC-like controller. This tool will be based on existing solvers and relying on CasADi (, integrating all steps with minimal human intervention.  You will be working together with another PhD candidate focusing more on system identification. Implementation and validation of controllers and experimental validation of developed software on mechatronic lab systems are part of the job. 


Ideal candidates hold a Master’s degree in mechanical, control or electrical engineering, or computer science. Successful candidates are typically ranked at or near the top of their classes, have a solid background in optimization, systems and control, relevant computer programming skills (Python or Matlab, C++), and enthusiasm for experimental work and controller implementations and validations on mechatronic systems. Team player mentality, independence, and problem solving attitude are expected, and proficiency in English is a requirement.

Applicants whose mother tongue is neither Dutch nor English must present an official language test report. The acceptable tests are TOEFL, IELTS, and Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) or Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE). Required minimum scores are:

  • TOEFL: 600 (paper-based test), 100 (internet-based test);
  • IELTS: 7 (only Academic IELTS test accepted).



A fully funded PhD position in an international context for four years at the KULeuven: a top European university and a hub for interdisciplinary research in the fields of systems, control and optimization. You will be embedded in the MECO research team of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The doctoral candidate will work in world-class facilities with highly qualified experts, and will benefit from the training scheme developed based on the expertise of academic and industrial partners. A start date in the course of 2020 is to be agreed upon.



Please use the online application tool to submit your application and include:
[1]  an academic CV with photo,
[2]  a Pdf of your diplomas and transcript of course work and grades,
[3]  statement of research interests and career goals (max. 2 pages),
[4]  sample of technical writing (publication or thesis),
[5]  contact details of at least two referees,
[6]  proof of English language proficiency test results.

For more information you can contact Prof. dr. ir. Jan Swevers or dr. ir. Wilm Decré by email: 

You can apply for this job no later than March 31, 2020 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: March 31, 2020
  • Tags: Computerwetenschappen
  • Download: file

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