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PhD Resilient Robotic Autonomy Exploration of Martian and Lunar Lava Tubes

Job in Trondheim - Norway
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Company: NORWEGIAN UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY - NTNU
Full Time position
Listed on 2021-04-01
Job specializations:
  • Research/Development
    Research
  • Engineering
Job Description & How to Apply Below
Position:  PhD Candidate Resilient Robotic Autonomy for Exploration of Martian and Lunar Lava Tubes
About the position

The PhD candidate will work on challenging research problems related to collaborative autonomous systems for subterranean exploration in off-worlds such as the Moon and Mars.

The position is part of the Autonomous Robots Lab activities in resilient autonomy in extreme environments. The Autonomous Robots Lab has leading research in robotic autonomy and demonstrated performance in a collection of world-class projects funded by both US and European sources. For more details about our team, see . Indicative instances of our work can be seen in the following videos of our field experiments: https:// & https://

The position reports to Professor Kostas Alexis as the main scientific supervisor of the research.

Why apply for a PhD position?

The main objective of a PhD position is to develop skills to solve complex problems related to the research topic. Being part of a world-class team such as the Autonomous Robots Lab gives you a unique arena for collaboration and networking, also across disciplines and with industry. A PhD degree opens new attractive career opportunities at universities and research institutes across the world. Furthermore, the industry both in Norway and across the world needs personnel with PhD competence to stay competitive and develop new jobs for the future.

Duties of the position

The vision of our work in relation to this position is to research, develop, and field-verify the new science, technology and systems necessary to enable the resilient robotic exploration of the subterranean voids of Lunar and Martian Lava Tubes. Motivated by the core scientific hypothesis that Marian lava tubes (for example) are likely to present unique opportunities in terms of a) understanding the geology of the planet, b) examining its possible biological history, and c) providing a safe environment to host a human settlement on the red planet, in this research we seek to deliver the new robotic embodiments with multi-modal perception and collaborative autonomy that can be deployed on Mars or the Moon, enter lava tubes through craters and skylights, map the unknown, diverse and daunting underground settings and return to their entry point so that their valuable maps and overall characterization data are transmitted to Earth. To achieve verifiable progress towards this challenging goal, extensive field evaluation in Earth-analogs involving lava tubes, caverns and cave networks is planned. Our team has extensive prior experience through relevant projects such as the DARPA Subterranean Challenge.

Required selection criteria

The PhD-position's main objective is to qualify for work in research positions. The qualification requirement is completion of a master’s degree or second degree (equivalent to 120 credits) with a strong academic background in control engineering (cybernetics) or equivalent education with a grade of B or better in terms of NTNU’s grading scale. Applicants with no letter grades from previous studies must have an equally good academic foundation. Applicants who are unable to meet these criteria may be considered only if they can document that they are particularly suitable candidates for education leading to a PhD degree.

Required qualifications


Academic background as listed above
Excellent English skills (written and oral)


Preferred qualifications


Knowledge and skills in the following areas are relevant: Robotics, software engineering, mechanical design, modeling, control theory and systems,  planning, statistics, machine learning, autonomous systems, sensor fusion, embedded systems, safety and reliability.
Experience in programming in C++.
Experience with the Robot Operating System (ROS).


Applicants are requested to provide evidence of good English language skills, written and spoken. The following tests can be used as such documentation: TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) or Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) [or other that the candidate explains as equivalent]  
(In extraordinary circumstances, formal documentation of language skills can be relinquished. In such cases, the candidate’s language skills will be assessed in a personal interview).

Personal characteristics

The candidate is expected to:


Be scientifically curious and open to new research challenges
Demonstrate independence and persistence in addressing technical problems
Be flexible and reliable, with ability to work effectively independently and as part of a team


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

PhD candidates are remunerated in code 1017, and are normally remunerated at gross from NOK 482 200 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 three years with the possibility of one year extension for teaching duties at the Department of Engineering Cybernetics.

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

The employment is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants and national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

The employment is also to be made according to 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’s in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience, personal suitability, and motivation, as documented according to the requirements for the application.

About the application

You should ensure that your application shows clearly how your skills and experience meet the criteria which are set out above. Please note that applications are only evaluated based on the information available on the application deadline.

The application must include:


A short and directed cover letter (in English or Norwegian) identifying:
Your motivation for a PhD study
Your understanding and thoughts of topics of the position
Why you are suited for the position.
CV including information relevant for the qualifications
Contact information for 3 reference persons
Certified copies of academic diplomas and transcripts (in English or Norwegian)


Academic works - published or unpublished - that you would like to be considered can also be added, if it is relevant for the topics of the position. Joint works will be considered if you have added an explanation of your own independent contribution to the work.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal suitability.

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

A good work environment is characterized by diversity. We encourage qualified candidates to apply, regardless of their gender, functional capacity or cultural background.

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.

In accordance with The Public Information Act (Offentleglova), your name, age, position and municipality may be made public even if you have requested not to have your name entered on the list of applicants.

Questions about the position can be directed to Professor Kostas Alexis, (Please contact us using the "Apply for this Job Posting" box below) .

Please submit your application electronically via jobbnorge.no with your CV, diplomas and certificates. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Diploma Supplement is required to attach for European Master Diplomas outside Norway. Chinese applicants are required to provide confirmation of Master Diploma from China Credentials Verification (CHSI).

If you are invited for interview you must include certified copies of transcripts and reference letters. Please refer to the application number 2021/15307 when applying.

Application deadline: May 2, 2021.

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 Engineering Cybernetics (ITK)

Engineering cybernetics is the study of automatic control and monitoring of dynamic systems. We develop the technologies of tomorrow through close cooperation with industry and academia, both in Norway and internationally. The Department contributes to the digitalization, automation and robotization of society. The Department of Engineering Cybernetics is one of seven departments in the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering.

Deadline 2nd May 2021
Employer NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Municipality Trondheim
Scope Fulltime
Duration Project
Place of service Trondheim
Position Requirements
Less than 1 Year work experience
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