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PhD Student - Topological measures to plan flexible objects bimanual robotic manipulation (FPI 2019 -MdM-)

Date of call





Júlia Borràs



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The "Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial (IRI), CSIC-UPC", is seeking a PhD student to work under the framework of the María de Maeztu (MdM) Unit of Excellence Seal.

The PhD student will be supervised by Dr. Júlia Borràs and Dr. Maria Alberich.

IRI is a Joint University Research Institute participated by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC) that conducts research in human-centered robotics and automatic control. The institute is a key player in the Spanish robotics and automatic control scenes, and a valued participant in a large number of international collaborations including more than ten ongoing H2020 projects and an ERC Advanced Grant. Recently, is has been recognized as a Maria de Maeztu Excellence Unit, the main accreditation given by the Spanish Government to research units that stand out for the impact and international relevance of their results.

The manipulation of flexible objects is an intrinsically bimanual task. Its main challenge is how to predict the behaviour of this kind of objects, when they are manipulated, to plan actions such as folding or unfolding. The main goal of this thesis is to define new representations, in terms of points, oriented lines, or oriented tetrahedra, to extract topological and shape information from each configuration of our grippers and the flexible object. In the long term, we want to plan motions between different configurations exploiting optimization methods based on these topological and geometric indexes.

To start with, we will study the Gauss Linking Number, an index that measures the writhe between two open polygonal curves. This index has been widely explored for DNA study applications. It has recently been applied to robotics to synthesize humanoid robot motions, including grasping and manipulation tasks through holes in the environment. We will revisit the computation of this index, its geometric interpretation and possible improvements, applying it to plan robotic manipulations to free a couple of entangled wires. Then, we will explore ways to extend this index to 2D objects for the manipulation of textiles.

A four-year PhD position will be fully covered by an FPI grant under the Spanish Government Call "Ayudas para contratos predoctorales para la formación de doctores 2019". The gross salary is 17785 Eur/year. In addition, there are secured funding to cover the attendance to national and international conferences, journal publication costs, research stays abroad, and lab experiments. If the thesis is finished before the end of the 3rd year, a postdoc contract during the 4th year with a salary of 19.000 eur can be funded.

If you are interested, please send an e-mail to at your earliest convenience, including your CV, and your full academic record. Although the candidate selection will be done by the host group, the required paperwork will be coordinated and supervised by the Spanish Ministry of Science through this website. The official application deadline by the Ministry is November 7th, but we would appreciate if you can send us your documentation no later than October 31st, so we can review your CV in advance and help you in the official application process.


Qualifications: The candidate is expected to have a Master in mathematics, computer science or a related field, and have interest in Robotics and Mathematics.

S/he should be admitted in a PhD Programme or at least fulfill the requirements to be admitted in such a programme upon formalization of the PhD contract. This formalization is expected to take place by mid 2020.
Languages: Fluent in English.


Please, send your documentation before 07/11/2019 to:

Email: jobs (at)
Address: Parc Tecnològic de Barcelona. C/ Llorens i Artigas 4-6, 2a planta. 08028 Barcelona, Spain.
Fax: 93 401 57 50
Note: Please, remember to reference the offer (ID-77) and include the following documentation: CV and academic transcripts