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PhD Student Position in Robot Learning and Representation Learning

Posted 17 Jun 2024
Work experience
1 to 3 years
Full-time / part-time
Job function
€2,770 - €3,539 per month
Degree level
Required languages
English (Fluent)
Dutch (Fluent)
30 Jun 2024 00:00

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Are you seeking a PhD position in the areas of robotics, reinforcement learning and deep representation learning? Do you want to work with robots and state-of-the-art deep learning methods? Then consider joining us at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam!

Your function

We are looking for a motivated Ph.D. candidate to strengthen our teams at the computer science department of the VU Amsterdam in the area of robot learning & representation learning. You will be jointly supervised by the Assistant Professors Kevin Sebastian Luck (Computational Intelligence Group) and Shujian Yu (Quantitative Data Analysis Group).

In your PhD project you will consider the development of new deep learning and robot learning methodologies which can be applied across a variety of robotic platforms. With this you will work at the research frontier by investigating how we can optimize, exploit and generalize across a variety of agent embodiments and create novel reinforcement learning and representation learning approaches. Developing such embodied AI methodologies which do not consider the body of the robot to be static, but changeable and exploitable is a challenging endeavor with impact to both industry & science, and a lot of open and exciting research questions. You can expect to work at the intersection of the following areas: Deep Representation Learning, Reinforcement Learning, Information Theory, Robotics. Furthermore, you will have the possibility to apply your research on real robot platforms in our robotics lab, from standard platforms such as the Franka Enigma robot arm to self-developed modular robots.

As a PhD candidate you will have the opportunity to present your findings at international conferences, collaborate internationally and be an integral and valued part of a new team of researchers in the area of robot learning & deep learning in Amsterdam. As such, we aim to support you to start and build your own scientific career, collect teaching experience in relevant courses, and provide funding for this position for 4 years.

Your profile

​​​​​​Required qualifications:

  • you have completed or are close to completion (about to submit/defend) of your Master in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Statistics, Robotics or a related field
  • strong background in Deep Learning, Reinforcement Learning, and/or Information Theory
  • you possess good skills in Python programming
  • have strong oral and written communication skills in English;

The following desirables are helpful:

  • knowledge in relevant fields such as: Information Theory, (Meta) Reinforcement Learning, Foundation Models, Probability Theory, etc
  • experience with robots or continuous control either in the real world or simulation
  • strong mathematical background (eg courses in Lineare Algebra / Analysis)
  • experience with deep learning frameworks such as PyTorch and Tensorflow
  • experience in writing papers for conferences or a high-quality research thesis in the above mentioned topics
  • relevant technical skills: LaTeX, Linux, Mujoco, PyBullet, ROS

As a university, we strive for equal opportunities for all, recognising that diversity takes many forms. We believe that diversity in all its complexity is invaluable for the quality of our teaching, research and service. We are always looking for talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This also means that we are committed to creating an inclusive community so that we can use diversity as an asset.

We realise that each individual brings a unique set of skills, expertise and mindset. Therefore we are happy to invite anyone who recognises themselves in the profile to apply, even if you do not meet all the requirements.

What do we offer?

A challenging position in a socially engaged organisation. At VU Amsterdam, you contribute to education, research and service for a better world. And that is valuable. So in return for your efforts, we offer you:

  • a salary of € 2.770,00 and maximum € 3.539,00 gross per month in the fourth year, for a full-time employment
  • an employment contract of initially 18 months. If there is sufficient perspective, this will be extended to a total of 4 years. Your dissertation at the end of the fourth year forms the end of your employment contract.

We also offer you attractive fringe benefits and arrangements. Some examples:

  • A full-time 38-hour working week comes with a holiday leave entitlement of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you have 96 extra holiday leave hours on an annual basis. For part-timers, this is calculated pro rata.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

About us

Faculty of Science

Researchers and students at VU Amsterdam’s Faculty of Science tackle fundamental and complex scientific problems to help pave the way for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition, and from molecules to the moon: we cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. Our teaching and research have a strong experimentally technical, computational and interdisciplinary nature.

We work on new solutions guided by value-driven, interdisciplinary methodologies. We are committed to research, valorisation and training socially engaged citizens of the world who will make valuable contributions to a sustainable, healthy future.

Are you interested in joining the Faculty of Science? You will join undergraduate students, PhD candidates and researchers at the biggest sciences faculty in the Netherlands. You will combine a professional focus with a broad view of the world. We are proud of our collegial working climate, characterised by committed staff, a pragmatic attitude and engagement in the larger whole. The faculty is home to over 11,000 students enrolled in 40 study programmes. It employs over 1,600 professionals spread across 10 academic departments.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam stands for values-driven education and research. We are open-minded experts with the ability to think freely. - a broader mind. Maintaining an entrepreneurial perspective and concentrating on diversity, significance and humanity, we work on sustainable solutions with social impact. By joining forces, across the boundaries of disciplines, we work towards a better world for people and planet. Together we create a safe and respectful working and study climate, and an inspiring environment for education and research.

We are located on one physical campus, in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas business district, with excellent location and accessibility. Over 5,500 staff work at the VU and over 30,000 students attend academic education.


Diversity is the driving force of the VU. The VU wants to be accessible and receptive to diversity in disciplines, cultures, ideas, nationalities, beliefs, preferences and worldviews. We believe that trust, respect, interest and differences lead to new insights and innovation, to sharpness and clarity, to excellence and a broader understanding.

We stand for an inclusive community and believe that diversity and internationalisation contribute to the quality of education, research and our services.

Therefore, we are always searching for people whose backgrounds and experience contribute to the diversity of the VU community.

At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, we attach great importance to the societal impact of our education and research. Personal development and social involvement are key parts of our vision on education, in which individual differences are seen as a strength. This allows us to develop innovations and insights that contribute to a better world.

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