PhD positions in Soft Robotics

SDU Biorobotics at the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute, University of Southern Denmark, invites applications for one or more fully-funded 3-year PhD positions on bio-inspired aesthetic design of soft robots for human-robot interaction. The starting date for the positions is preferably April 1st, 2021, but will be agreed upon with the successful candidate.

About the PhD project Within the past two decades, several potential application areas for soft robotics have been proposed that depend critically on human-robot interaction (e.g. assistive technology, wearables, emergency relief, and collaborative robots). However, recent research suggests that the unique biomorphic appearance of soft robots leads to novel and distinct types of interaction behaviors from human users. 

The broad objective of the PhD project is to contribute towards enabling better human interaction with soft robots and thereby broaden the realizable scope of soft robotics applications within society. The PhD candidate will combine creative arts-based approaches to robotics with human-robot interaction (HRI) methodologies to gain more knowledge about the aesthetic design of soft robotics technology and how aesthetic designs can enable and support specific types of interaction between soft robots and humans. The candidate will utilize a practice-based methodology and develop interactive soft robots, drawing on existing work from and theory about bio-inspired art and design. The practice and research should explore soft robotic appearance, movement, and/or touch as aesthetic modalities and communicative channels for nonverbal signaling. 

Research Environment
The University of Southern Denmark in Odense is a rich environment for research and innovation within robotics and automation. SDU Biorobotics spans a broad range of expertise and research interests, including soft robotics, robot swarms, artificial intelligence, bio-inspired control, embedded electronics, and mechatronics.  

The Center for Soft Robotics is a new and growing research group in SDU Biorobotics. We design, build and program next-generation bioinspired soft robots that use compliance as an integral part of their intelligence. In our research, we aim for a systems-level integration in designing and building soft robots. We use innovative soft materials and structures to develop AI matter and imbue soft robots with embedded sensing and interactive functionalities. Then, we adopt biologically inspired control and learning strategies to enable such soft machines to communicate efficiently with humans through aesthetic expressions and navigate dexterously through complex terrains.  

The Center for Soft Robotics is an engaging and collaborative environment where we work together with other researchers and our industrial partners to translate the outcome of our research into impactful applications.  

About the candidate
We are looking for a highly motivated, creative, and ambitious candidate with a good command of English (written and spoken), who can work well in a team as well as independently and quickly acquire knowledge in new topics. The candidate should have a master’s degree in art & technology, media arts, digital design, interactive architecture, or a related field, a genuine interest in interdisciplinary research, a drive to design and fabricate physical robots, and preferably experience in programming. The ideal candidate has a creative technological practice that connects to academia, is competent to acquire skills to conduct high-quality research, and present and publish the outcome of the project at conferences and scientific journals. The candidate is expected to take part in the teaching activities of the Center for Soft Robotics and SDU Biorobotics. 

Contact information
Further information about this position is available via email from Assistant Professor Jonas Jørgensen (jonj@mmmi.sdu.dk) and Associate Professor Ahmad Rafsanjani (ahra@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. Shortlisting may be used. 

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

The application deadline is February 28th, 2021.

The application must be in English and must include the following - 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.
  • 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.
  • List of publications and maximum 2 examples of relevant publications, in case you have any publications. Please attach one pdf-file for each publication.
  • References, if any. Reference letters may also be included. You're welcome to use the form for reference letter at the Faculty website.
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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