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Type: PhD Student
Name (ID): PhD positions in robot learning from demonstration and manipulation skills transfer (OP-20181031-164402)
Supervised by: Sylvain CALINON


Two PhD positions in robot learning from demonstration and manipulation skills transfer are currently open in the Robot Learning & Interaction Group.

The PhD candidate should hold a Master degree in engineering, computer science, physics or applied mathematics, with a background in linear algebra, statistics, optimization, signal processing or control. Working at Idiap in Martigny, the successful candidate will become a doctoral student at EPFL, and thus also has to be accepted for enrollment by the Electrical Engineering (EDEE) or the Computer, Communication and Information Sciences (EDIC) Doctoral Schools. The PhD position is for 4 years, provided successful progress, and should lead to a dissertation. Annual gross salary ranges from 47,000 CHF (first year) to 50,000 CHF (last year).

The research in the Robot Learning & Interaction Group span several disciplines at the crossroad of machine learning, statistics, optimal control, differential geometry, human motion sciences and user interfaces. Specific examples of techniques we have been using include hidden Markov models (HMM), Gaussian process regression (GPR), model predictive control (MPC), Riemannian geometry and tensor methods. We are particularly interested in the challenge of learning/transferring skills from fewer trials or demonstrations than what is currently achieved. Related topics include transfer learning, active learning, and the use of model priors that are valid for a wide range of skills.

Our research activities span several branches of science, and there is consequently no specific educational background sought for these positions. The ideal candidate should have strong expertise in one or a subset of the proposed fields. Other areas of research extending our current lines of research are also welcome for outstanding candidates.

The ideal candidate is enthusiastic, creative, curious and motivated to do research with both theory and practice. Strong mathematical skills (in particular, in linear algebra, machine learning or optimization) and strong coding skills (C++, Python or Matlab) are expected.

Interested candidates should submit a CV, a cover letter, transcripts of grades, and the names of three references (or recommendation letters) through the Idiap online recruitment system. The cover letter (max 2 pages) should explain how your background fit with our research activities (see the short description of our research and our latest publications). If you are not sure that your profile is a good fit with the position, you can send an email to to ask. In your CV, relative ranking should be included when possible, such as average grade or ranks in the class.

The positions will remain open until it has been filled, ideally early 2019.

To know more about Idiap, you can check out our annual reports.

About Idiap:

Idiap is an independent, not-for-profit, research institute recognized and funded by the Swiss Federal Government, the State of Valais, and the City of Martigny.

Idiap offers competitive salaries and conditions at all levels in a young, high-quality, dynamic, and multicultural environment. Idiap is an equal opportunity employer and is actively involved in the "Advancement of Women in Science" European initiative. The Institute seeks to maintain a principle of open competition (on the basis of merit) to appoint the best candidate, provides equal opportunity for all candidates, and equally encourage both genders to apply.

Idiap is located in the town of Martigny in Valais, a scenic region in the south of Switzerland, surrounded by the highest mountains of Europe, and offering exceptional quality of life, exciting recreational activities, including hiking, climbing and skiing, as well as varied cultural activities. It is within close proximity to Lausanne and Geneva. Although Idiap is located in the French part of Switzerland, English is the official working language. Free French lessons are also provided on a complimentary basis.

For frequently asked questions (FAQs) about living in Switzerland, please go to

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