PhD Candidate in Machine Learning Methods and Model-Predictive Control for Mechanical Systems

Norwegian University of Science and Technology
January 22, 2023
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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The Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering has a vacancy for a

PhD Candidate in Machine Learning Methods and Model-Predictive Control for

Mechanical Systems

This is NTNU

NTNU is a broad-based university with a technical-scientific profile and a focus in professional education. The university is located in three cities with headquarters in Trondheim.

At NTNU, 9,000 employees and 44,000 students work to create knowledge for a better world.

You will find more information about working at NTNU and the application process here.

About the job

For a position as a PhD Candidate, the goal is a completed doctoral education up to an obtained doctoral degree.

This project aims to develop new and world-leading methods for online machine learning model predictive control (MPC) for motion control systems.

Model predictive control is a control method that uses an internal model (in the form of a set of differential equations) and an optimality criterion to predict the best series of control actions by solving an optimization problem.

MPC has been used for decades to control relatively slow industrial processes. However, increasing computational power and innovative new algorithms have made it feasible for the much more time-sensitive domain of motion control.

A key aspect of MPC is its internal model, used to predict the future behavior of the system it tries to control. For complex systems, however, obtaining accurate models is challenging, particularly in changing and ill-structured environments and when around humans and other unpredictable actors.

Combining first principles-based models with machine learning (ML) models is a way of overcoming these challenges. Recent developments in neural ODEs, online ML, and automatic differentiation have enabled the integration of these in an MPC formulation. However, significant and exciting challenges remain to bring the methods to fruition.

You will be doing cutting-edge research on this project, including theoretical, simulation-based, and experimental. You will be working alone and in small teams under the supervision of an expert in the field. You will be publishing your research in high-level peer-reviewed conferences and journals.

The ultimate end point of your work is obtaining a PhD. A PhD is the highest academic degree in the Norwegian system. A PhD program is both a study program and a paid research position with a three-year duration.

Your immediate leader is Associate Professor Christian Holden

Duties of the position
  • perform research into the connection between data-driven / machine learning methods and model predictive control for motion control of mechanical systems such as robot manipulators, offshore cranes, mobile platforms, etc.
  • perform said research independent and under guidance, and in small groups
  • perform literature review(s) on the topic of research
  • collaborate with experts and fellow PhD students
  • perform simulation studies
  • perform experiments
  • develop novel methods for machine learning model predictive control
  • perform analysis of said methods
  • write and publish results of research at high-level peer-reviewed conferences and journals
  • pass 30 ECTS credits of PhD-level or high-level university courses
  • write a PhD thesis, and defend it in front of a committee of experts
  • Required selection criteria
  • you must have a professionally relevant background in robotics and automation, machine learning, control theory and cybernetics, or applied mathematics
  • you must have a solid background in programming
  • you need to have in-depth knowledge of at least one of the following topics: model predictive control, machine learning, and/or motion control of mechanical and dynamical systems
  • you must have good written and oral English language skills
  • your education must correspond to a five-year Norwegian degree program, where 120 credits are obtained at master's level
  • you must have a strong academic background from your previous studies and an average grade from the master's degree program, or equivalent education, which is equal to B or better compared with NTNU's grading scale. If you do not have letter grades from previous studies, you must have an equally good academic basis. If you have a weaker grade background, you may be assessed if you can document that you are particularly suitable for a PhD education
  • master's students can apply, but the master's degree must be obtained and documented by 17. september 2023
  • you must meet the requirements for admission to the faculty's doctoral program
  • The appointment is to be made in accordance with Regulations concerning the degrees of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) and Philosodophiae Doctor (PhD) in artistic research national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant

    Preferred selection criteria
  • in-depth knowledge of model predictive control
  • in-depth knowledge of machine learning
  • in-depth knowledge of motion control of mechanical and dynamical systems
  • programming skills in Matlab, Python, C/C++, and/or Julia
  • god written and oral Norwegian language skills
  • Personal characteristics
  • motivated and able to engage in theoretical and practical research and interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • good communication and networking skills
  • proactive and forthcoming
  • able to work independently if needed
  • creative, with a solid ability to work problem oriented
  • enjoy interdisciplinary research with a passion for learning and discovery
  • Emphasis will be placed on personal and interpersonal qualities.

    We offer
  • exciting and stimulating tasks in a strong international academic environment
  • an open and inclusive work environment with dedicated colleagues
  • favourable terms in the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund
  • employee benefits
  • Salary and conditions

    As a PhD candidate (code 1017) you are normally paid from gross NOK 501 200 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

    The period of employment is 3 years.

    Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to the PhD programme in Engineering within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period.


    The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

    It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution daily on a daily basis.

    About the application

    The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English.

    Publications and other scientific work must follow the application. Please note that your application will be considered based solely on information submitted by the application deadline. You must therefore ensure that your application clearly demonstrates how your skills and experience fulfil the criteria specified above.

    The application must include:

  • CV and certificates
  • transcripts and diplomas for bachelor's and master's degrees. If you have not completed the master's degree, you must submit a confirmation that the master's thesis has been submitted
  • a copy of the master's thesis. If you recently have submitted your master's thesis, you can attach a draft of the thesis. Documentation of a completed master's degree must be presented before taking up the position
  • name and contact information of three referees
  • if you have publications or other relevant research work
  • If all, or parts, of your education has been taken abroad, we also ask you to attach documentation of the scope and quality of your entire education, both bachelor's and master's education, in addition to other higher education. Description of the documentation required can be found here. If you already have a statement from NOKUT, please attach this as well.

    We will take joint work into account. If it is difficult to identify your efforts in the joint work, you must enclose a short description of your participation.

    In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal and interpersonal qualities. Motivation, ambitions, and potential will also count in the assessment of the candidates.

    NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

    General information

    Working at NTNU

    NTNU believes that inclusion and diversity is our strength. We want to recruit people with different competencies, educational backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives to contribute to solving our social responsibilities within education and research. We will facilitate for our employees' needs.

    NTNU is working actively to increase the number of women employed in scientific positions and has a number of resources to promote equality.


    The city of Trondheim is a modern European city with a rich cultural scene. Trondheim is the innovation capital of Norway with a population of 200,000. The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world. Professional subsidized day-care for children is easily available. Furthermore, Trondheim offers great opportunities for education (including international schools) and possibilities to enjoy nature, culture and family life and has low crime rates and clean air quality.


    As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

    A public list of applicants with name, age, job title and municipality of residence is prepared after the application deadline. If you want to reserve yourself from entry on the public applicant list, this must be justified. Assessment will be made in accordance with current legislation. You will be notified if the reservation is not accepted.

    If you have any questions about the position, please contact Christian Holden, telephone +47 99618881, email . If you have any questions about the recruitment process, please contact Elisabeth Halvorsen, e-mail:

    If you think this looks interesting and in line with your qualifications, please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates attached. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Upon request, you must be able to obtain certified copies of your documentation.

    Application deadline: 22.01.2023

    NTNU - knowledge for a better world

    NTNU - knowledge for a better world

    The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) creates knowledge for a better world and solutions that can change everyday life.

    Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

    We educate graduates who can create new products, operate and maintain products, and manage projects. The Department has a variety of bachelor's and master's degree programmes. We conduct wide-ranging research in fields such as technology, energy, product quality and development, and productivity. The Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering is one of eight departments in the Faculty of Engineering.


    22nd January 2023


    NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology




    Fulltime (1 positions) Fulltime (%)



    Place of service

    Dept. of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

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