PhD Distributed Observer Design for Complex Systems

Eindhoven University of Technology
October 01, 2023
Offerd Salary:€2,770
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Full time
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PhD Distributed Observer Design for Complex Systems



Irène Curie Fellowship



Mechanical Engineering



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Job description

Are you passionate about design of decision-making processes for the next generation of smart, autonomous systems for industry and society. In this project, you will contribute to this topic by developing state-of-the-art design and optimization methodologies for state estimation (virtual sensing) of such complex dynamical systems.

Job Description

Many modern technological and industrial systems such as smart grids, traffic systems and high-tech equipment (e.g., lithography machines) are equipped with numerous smart sensors, each of which can only measure a part of the dynamics of such a complex system. However, inferring the complete state of the system, which is essential for monitoring, fault detection and isolation, digital twinning and control, is not possible using any of those individual measurements. A potential solution to the problem of estimating the global state of complex dynamical systems is found in employing so-called distributed observers. A distributed observer is a collection of local observers, each of which has access to local sensor readings only, and a communication protocol that synchronizes the local observers for the purpose of fusing all local measurements into a global state estimate. Thus, distributed observer potentially offers a scalable, flexible and adaptable solution to the state estimation problem.

In the recent years, several distributed observer designs are proposed for linear systems, but little attention is given to nonlinear distributed observer design. This is of interest as many complex systems include nonlinearities, e.g., the nonlinear dynamics of power generators in smart grids, and friction, hysteresis in mechanical systems, nonlinear dynamics of autonomous vehicles, etc. Furthermore, the effects of realistic communication constraints, such as (asynchronous) sampling on the stability and performance of the distributed observer, as well as the development of optimal communication protocols to synchronize the local observers are yet to be explored.

In this project, you will address these open challenges. Your overall aim is to develop methods for the design and optimization of the next generation of distributed nonlinear observers for complex systems.


Your tasks include (but are not limited to):

  • The development of analysis and design methods for distributed nonlinear observers for complex dynamical systems subject to communication constraints (both at the level of the local sensor readings as well as at the level of communication between the local observers).
  • Optimization of communication protocols between observers, e.g., minimization the communication load or number of required interactions, or optimizing for security.
  • Disseminating the results of your research in international peer-reviewed conferences and journals.
  • Developing computational tooling to assist distributed observer design.
  • Supervising internships and M.Sc. students in the scope of the above research.
  • Embedding

    You will execute this project in the Autonomous and Complex Systems group of the Dynamics and Control (D &C) section at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Eindhoven University of Technology. The mission of the Dynamics and Control Section, which consists of 22 faculty members and 45 researchers, is to perform research and train next-generation students on the topic of understanding and predicting the dynamics of complex engineering systems in order to develop advanced control, estimation, planning, and learning strategies which are at the core of the intelligent autonomous systems of the future: Designing and realizing smart autonomous systems for industry and society.

    With this project, you will contribute to the D&C aim of developing algorithmic techniques for the modelling, prediction, planning, sensing, estimation and control to ensure safe autonomy and certified performance of complex engineering systems. You will have the possibility to work with our collaborators from The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Norway, the UK, and Japan.

    Job requirements
  • A master's degree (or an equivalent university degree) in Mechanical Engineering, Systems and Control, Electrical Engineering, (applied) Mathematics, or Computer Science.
  • A research-oriented attitude.
  • Ability to work in an interdisciplinary team and interested in collaborating with industrial partners.
  • Motivated to develop your teaching skills and coach students.
  • Fluent in spoken and written English (C1 level).
  • Conditions of employment

    A meaningful job in a dynamic and ambitious university, in an interdisciplinary setting and within an international network. You will work on a beautiful, green campus within walking distance of the central train station. In addition, we offer you:

  • Full-time employment for four years, with an intermediate evaluation (go/no-go) after nine months. You will spend 10% of your employment on teaching tasks.
  • Salary and benefits (such as a pension scheme, paid pregnancy and maternity leave, partially paid parental leave) in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, scale P (min. €2,770 max. €3,539).
  • A year-end bonus of 8.3% and annual vacation pay of 8%.
  • High-quality training programs and other support to grow into a self- aware, autonomous scientific researcher. At TU/e we challenge you to take charge of your own learning process.
  • An excellent technical infrastructure, on-campus children's day care and sports facilities.
  • An allowance for commuting, working from home and internet costs.
  • A Staff Immigration Team and a tax compensation scheme (the 30% facility) for international candidates.
  • Information and application

    About us

    Eindhoven University of Technology is an internationally top-ranking university in the Netherlands that combines scientific curiosity with a hands- on attitude. Our spirit of collaboration translates into an open culture and a top-five position in collaborating with advanced industries. Fundamental knowledge enables us to design solutions for the highly complex problems of today and tomorrow.

    Curious to hear more about what it's like as a PhD candidate at TU/e? Please view the video.

    Do you recognize yourself in this profile and would you like to know more? Please contact Erik Steur (email or Nathan van de Wouw (email

    Visit our website for more information about the application process. You can also contact HR advice( email [email protected]) also for the conditions of employment.

    Are you inspired and would like to know more about working at TU/e? Please visit our career page.


    We invite you to submit a complete application by using the apply button. The application should include a:

  • Cover letter in which you describe your motivation and qualifications for the position.
  • Curriculum vitae, including a list of your publications and the contact information of three references.
  • We look forward to receiving your application and will screen it as soon as possible. The vacancy will remain open until the position is filled.

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