PhD: A Simulation Framework for Surface Inspection by Robot Swarms using AI/ML Models

University of Groningen
January 15, 2023
Offerd Salary:€ 2,541
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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PhD: A Simulation Framework for Surface Inspection by Robot Swarms using

AI/ML Models (V22.0844)

Job description

Over the past two decades, the field of swarm robotics has been very successful at developing ground, aerial, and aquatic robotic swarms that demonstrate a variety of collective behaviors. A main challenge that remains unmet, however, is deployment of robot swarms to deliver applications in uncontrolled real-world settings. Sensing, surveying, and inspection applications are among those that will significantly benefit from deployment of robot swarms. This research project is focused on delivering a structural health monitoring inspection task. In structural health monitoring applications, sensing and processing vibration signals that propagate through a structure is an established technique. In this project, we will be studying inspecting a 3D metallic surface using a swarm of small-scale metal-climbing wheeled robots. We have previously developed hardware and algorithmic tools that will serve as the basis for our future steps along this research line. We have a 3-cm-sized metal climbing wheeled robot and a source localization algorithm that allows a swarm of such robots to search a 3D surface and localize a vibration source by tracing the vibration signal that propagates through the surface. The algorithm has been implemented and validated in simulation on our swarm of wheeled robots (Webots robotic simulator). In this PhD project, the focus will be on working in simulation (Webots robotic simulator) and develop, test, and validate a suite of increasingly complex algorithms that enable the swarm to inspect and localize faults on a 3D surface in increasingly complex surface structure scenarios. Additionally, the project involves developing and using AI/ML models for processing the sensor data in order to detect surface defects. The target application for our research is structural health monitoring and predictive maintenance. This PhD project is planned for a four-year PhD program at the University of Groningen, in Groningen, Netherlands. The University of Groningen ranks 15th in the world in the field of Control and Automation and has consistently ranked among the top 100 universities worldwide overall.

About the organization: Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative institution of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programs and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 36,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. As one of the best research universities in Europe, the University of Groningen has joined forces with other top universities and networks worldwide to become a truly global center of knowledge. The advertised PhD position is available to start immediately in the research group of Prof. dr. Jacquelien Scherpen (https: // www. under the direct supervision of Dr. Bahar Haghighat (link: https: // www. and is embedded within the Engineering and Technology institute at the University of Groningen (ENTEG). About the PhD supervisor: Dr. Bahar Haghighat is currently a Tenure Track Assistant Professor at the Engineering and Technology institute at the University of Groningen (ENTEG), in Groningen, Netherlands. She is part of the research group of Prof. Dr. Jacquelien Scherpen. Bahar's work investigates building miniaturized robotic swarms and algorithmic frameworks that enable sensing, surveying, and inspection applications. Her research involves mechatronics, embedded systems, and AI/ML models. Her work aims to produce novel surface, aquatic, and aerial miniaturized robot swarms and small-scale intelligent devices that can benefit several commercially promising applications in domains such as inspection of complex structures, environmental monitoring, space exploration, and search- and-rescue robot swarms.

Dr. Bahar Haghighat obtained her PhD in Robotics, Control, and Intelligent Systems in 2018 from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland and her Master's and Bachelor's degrees respectively in Electrical Engineering/Digital Electronics and Electrical Engineering/Physics (double major) from Sharif University of Technology (SUT) in Tehran, Iran. She has been a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University and a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Radhika Nagpal. Her PhD research focused on mechatronic design and development of an aquatic swarm of miniaturized resourceconstrained robotic modules capable of performing self-assembly. Her postdoctoral research focused on mechatronic design, algorithmic development, and modeling of a swarm of vibration sensing robots for infrastructure inspection applications. Bahar Haghighat has been selected as an EECS Rising Star in 2021 (MIT) and in 2019 (UIUC). She is the recipient of EPFL's PhD research award of Gilbert Hausmann for the best PhD thesis in the fields of mechanical engineering, electricity, and physics (2019), EPFL distinction of excellence for a PhD thesis in Robotics, Control, and Intelligent Systems (2018), two Swiss National Science foundation (SNSF) post-doctoral fellowship awards (2017 and 2019), and the third place in EPFL's My Thesis in 180 Seconds competition (2017).


1. a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, or related fields. Candidates with a Bachelor's degree may also be considered for admission if they can demonstrate evidence of extensive research experience. 2. fluency in spoken and written English. An official test certificate such as TOEFL or IELTS is a plus. If you do not have a certificate, the English fluency will be evaluated during the initial admission interview. 3. broad interest in robotics and AI, experience with C/C++, experience with Python, prior experience with AI/ML algorithms and a robotic simulator such as Webots or Gazebo is a plus.

Organisation Conditions of employment

In accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities we offer the following:

  • a salary of € 2,541 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,247 gross per month in the fourth and final year
  • a holiday allowance of 8% the gross annual income
  • an end-of-the-year allowance of 8.3% the gross annual income.
  • A full-time (1.0 FTE) position of one year with the option of renewal for three more years. Renewal of the contract is contingent on accomplishing sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that the candidate will be able to complete their PhD thesis within the next three years successfully. The position is intended for a PhD program of 4 years. A PhD training program is part of the agreement and the candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering.


    You may apply for this position until 14 January 11:59pm / before 15 January 2023 Dutch local time (CET) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website). Applications for the position should include:

  • cover letter with background and motivation to apply for this position
  • curriculum vitae, including details of Bachelor and Master degrees, work experience
  • contact details of 2 academic referees.
  • The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage: https: // www. strategy/diversity-and-inclusion/

    Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP): https: // www. and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers: https: //

    We provide career services for partners of new faculty members moving to Groningen.

    Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


    For information you can contact:

  • Bahar Haghighat, PhD, bahar.haghighat
  • Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.

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