PhD: Mobile manipulation in dynamic environments

Department/faculty: Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering
Level: University Graduate
Working hours: 38.0 hours weekly
Contract: 4 years
Salary: 2325 - 2972 euros monthly (full-time basis)

Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering

The 3mE Faculty 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. 

You will be part of the Cognitive Robotics department . 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

PhD1: Mobile manipulation in dynamic environments
In the future warehouses and stores, mobile manipulators will perform complex tasks in environments shared with humans. Traditionally task scheduling and manipulation have been decoupled from motion planning. Yet, when robots navigate in critical and dynamic environments, plans may have to be adapted online to take into account congestion, interaction with other robots and human co-workers/customers and interaction with the objects being manipulated. You will devise methods for motion planning that schedule plans for the robots and adapt them online taking into account the priority of tasks, their associated uncertainty and the preferences and needs of human co-workers or customers (e.g., the robot may push a trolley to the side to let a customer pass or modify its position to continue performing its task without causing any inconvenience to the customer). The goal is to have an integrated approach for motion planning in uncertain and dynamic environments, which accounts for complex manipulation, navigation and coordination tasks, and that provides performance guarantees (in expectation). 

Research Approach:

  • Global planning: Sampling-based path planning with guarantees

  • Local planning and manipulation: Real-time nonlinear constrained optimization

  • Machine learning for models of human/customer behavior

  • Learning preferences/cost function for areas to traverse

This PhD position is part of a larger research effort to study AI and Robotics for retail (supermarkets, distribution centres, online retail and supply chain) at the Delft University of Technology, see Together with Ahold Delhaize -a multinational retail organization with brands such as Albert Heijn, Delhaize,, Etos, Gall&Gall, Stop & Shop- and the Dutch Innovation Center for AI, the TUDelft, has started a joint research lab to join the best of academic and industrial research. The lab focuses on fundamental research in artificial intelligence and robotics for retail. The lab will host 5 PhD positions and research assistants. It is led by Prof. Martijn Wisse, and has principal investigators per domain. One of the perks this industry collaboration program is the possibility  for scientists to conduct both foundational research and test or pilot ideas in an applied context.
In Delft, we currently have three vacant PhD positions, namely:

  • PhD1: Mobile manipulation in dynamic environments

  • PhD2: Self-adaptive robot architectures for reliable, safe and explainable autonomous behaviour

  • PhD3: Predictive Vehicle Routing for On-demand Logistics

If you are interested in multiple positions, please apply only to the one that interests you the most and mention in your motivation letter your interest in multiple positions. You will be automatically considered for those positions. 


The candidate has a very good MSc degree in robotics, systems and control, applied mathematics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, mechanical/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, or in probabilistic planning and decision-making, 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 assistant professor Dr. Javier Alonso-Mora, e-mail:, web:  Please do not send application emails here, but use the specified address below. 

To apply, please submit:

  • 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 3mE19-38. The review of applications will start on July 7th 2019 and continue until the position is filled. The starting date is flexible, preferably near August 2019. If you are interested in more than one position in the AIRlab Delft program, please submit a single application to your preferred position and indicate that in your letter of motivation. You will then be considered for all selected positions.

Enquiries from agencies are not appreciated.


Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering
University Graduate
Working hours
38.0 hours weekly
4 years
2325 - 2972 euros monthly (full-time basis)

Closing date
July 8, 2019
Vacancy nr.


For more information about this job, please contact :

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