PhD position in Programming of bodily human-robot interaction

SDU’s upcoming interdisciplinary Trinity lab invite applications for a fully-funded position as PhD fellow in the field of software frameworks for  physical interaction with training robots. The position is available starting 1. December 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter. The application deadline is 1. November 2020. 

Bodily human/robot interaction (BHRI) is a vital subject in future robotics, as robotic devices become ever more entangled in our workplaces and daily lives. BHRI is already highly relevant to e.g. rehab robotics, and is expected to become a driving factor in collaborative industrial-, service- and social-robotics. As the process of bodily interaction is a chain of mechanical, physiological and social actions and reactions, a trans-disciplinary approach is required, in order to advance the field beyond it’s current state. 

What we offer
The PhD fellow will be part of a trans-disciplinary team, consisting of 3-5 PhD fellows and 5-10 senior researchers, dedicated to developing feasible bodily human/robot interaction in the context of SDU’s work on training-robots. 

We offer a challenging and innovative position, in an international, stimulating and highly interdisciplinary environment that forge new research by crossing the traditionally separate domains of engineering-, health- and humanistic research, for the benefit of the users and society as a whole.

Project description
The PhD fellow is to collaborate with peers and senior colleagues in the  research project: Bodily and Robotic Interaction: A Transdiciplinary Concept of Rehabilitation Training (BARI). BARI is aimed at development, implementation and test of robot programming methodologies that support scenarios where existing rope-pulling training robots can be programmed for effective and motivating physical training with a variety of users, including users suffering from cerebral paresis.  

The process of physical training combines motion and force. With an interactive training robot, motion and force can be controlled based on physical interaction with the user, rather than for assuming complete control of the force and motion. This interaction directly influences physiological benefits and the experience of bodily interaction. Human physiotherapists adapt training based on the specific needs of each patient and the daily fitness. For robots to be useful training partners that provide physiological benefits and the experience of interaction, they must be similarly adaptable to the individual patient and their daily fitness.  

The goal of this project is to develop software that allows the therapist to design interactive training programs for robotic devices, in a way that can support the patients' specific needs and progression of training. A therapist must effectively become the programmer, using their insight and expertise to design interactive and adaptable robot programs dedicated to the needs of the individual patient. Such an approach can neither rely on conventional programming languages nor automated systems based on artificial intelligence, but must target a sweet spot in between, where the therapist is in control of the robot without needing to specify unimportant details. Although highly flexible, the programming system must also ensure a safe and predictable interaction with the patient. The design of the system will be based on collaboration with experts in both training physiology and bodily interaction, and will explore how the human physiotherapist can control the robotic interact with humans during exercise, using the challenges and realities of Cerebral Paresis (CP) as a primary case.  

What we expect
You have a master’s degree (equivalent to a Danish master's degree) in computer engineering, computer science or similar, where: 

  • you have formal qualifications in the development and implementation of programming languages, concepts or paradigms, combined with an interest to apply this to robotics and bodily interaction.

OR

  • you have formal qualifications in experimental robotics, combined with an interest in learning development of user driven programming paradigms, in the scope of bodily interaction with robots.

Furthermore, the candidate must have the following qualifications:

  • Interest in close trans-disciplinary collaboration with PhD fellows and senior researchers that investigate Bodily Human/Robot Interaction from the standpoints of biology and social interaction, in order to merge these perspectives into your own work.
  • Interest in participating in developing and testing concepts and equipment that will assist people with performing effective physical training.
Knowledge, experience and skills in the following – or related – topics will be considered benefits:
  • Mechanical physics relevant for describing, specifying and measuring force and motion.
  • Control engineering, relevant for controlling force and motion of electrical motors.
  • Embedded systems, relevant for using and communicating with a variety of embedded system platforms.
  • Programming and/or computer science.
  • Math and mathematical modeling.
  • Physical training, rehabilitative training, training physiology or bio-mechanics.
  • Human interaction design and/or analysis.

As a PhD student you are expected to communicate scientific results in English (written and spoken) and to communicate clearly with project participants in either English or Danish. 

Workplace description
Trinity is a collaboration between SDU’s faculties for engineering, health and humanities, where pioneering researchers are combining their knowledge and experience in order to study and understand the processes of bodily human/robot interaction, with the goal of creating and demonstrating new concepts and applications for bodily human/robot interaction.  PhD fellows working in Trinity will share a common project space, with direct access to peers and senior researchers, from their own field, as well as the two adjoining fields. Trinity is physically located at SDU’s campus in the city of Odense, and Trinity draw on a number of facilities and laboratories at Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, as well as the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute.

You can read more about Trinity and it’s goals here.

Contact information
Further information about this position is available from Associate Professor Anders S. Sørensen at email: anss@mmmi.sdu.dk.

If you experience technical problems you must contact support-sdujob@sdu.dk.  

Conditions of employment
Applicants are required to have a master’s degree (equivalent to a Danish master's degree) at the time of enrollment and employment. Employment as a PhD fellow is a 3-year salaried position (start salary amounts to approx. 3.378,- EURO per month incl. supplements).

Employment of a PhD fellow can only happen after the Head of the PhD School has approved the candidate for admission to the PhD school. Employment and enrollment will cease without further notice at the end of the period.

A PhD fellow is not allowed to have any kind of sideline employment, while enrolled as PhD fellow at the faculty.

Employment is governed by the Protocol on PhD Research Fellows signed by the Danish Ministry of Finance and the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. Please check links for more information on salary and taxation.

The successful candidate will be enrolled at SDU in accordance with Faculty regulations and the Danish Ministerial Order on the PhD Programme at the Universities (PhD order), read more here. 

The assessment process
Read about the Assessment and selection process.

Application procedure
Trinity expect the applicants to read the detailed description of Trinity and the Trinity-BARI project, and describe how participating in Trinity can benefit your PhD project, and how your project may benefit the overall goals of Trinity (a short PhD research proposal). The detailed description is available at: https://trinity-motion.org/Files/phdpositions_2020.pdf.  

The Faculty expects applicants to read the Faculty information for prospective PhD students and How to apply before applying.

The application must be in English and must include - the required forms must be found at the above mentioned Faculty website:
  • Completed TEK PhD application form for 5+3 applicants.
  • Motivation letter stating your specific interest, motivation and qualifications for the project in question (max. 2 pages). Upload in the field called “Project description”. 
  • Detailed Curriculum Vitae, describing research, publication and teaching experience, computational skills and including personal contact information.
  • A short PhD research proposal as mentioned above (maximum five pages including references). Upload in the field called “Other relevant material”.
  • Verified copies of the official bachelor diploma and master's diploma and transcripts of exams, both original and translated into English.
  • Completed TEK PhD form for calculation grade point average. Upload in one of the fields called “Publication”. 
  • An official document describing the grading scheme of the awarding universities (if not Danish). Upload in one of the fields called "Publication".  
  • An official and verified written assessment of the thesis or dissertation project from the grade giving institution, if the thesis/examination project is evaluated by approved/passed. The statement must clearly state that the candidate has been among the top 30 pct. in the graduation class for the study programme.
  • References, if any. You're welcome to use the form for reference letter at the Faculty website.
  • List of publications and maximum 2 examples of relevant publications, if available. Please attach one pdf-file for each publication. 
The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.


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