PhD Position in Functionally Acurate Robotic Surgery

Catholic University of Leuven

The successful applicant will become part of the Robot Assisted Surgery (RAS) group ( belonging to the department of Mechanical Engineering. This is a growing, dynamic, multi-disciplinary research group with links to micro-precision manufacturing, mechanical design, robotics and biomedical applications. The RAS group maintains tight and multiple collaborations with UZ Leuven, the largest (university) hospital in Belgium, which is located at 10 minutes ride (bicycle) of the department. The research on robotic orthopedics has been supported by the European H2020 and by the Flemish government, this PhD project is linked to FAROS an H2020-funded project that is bound to start on January 1st, 2021 (coordinated by the RAS group at KU Leuven) and Radar-Spine (an FWO-funded project coordinated by RAS as well).


A key motivation for introducing robots in operating rooms has been their ability to deliver superhuman performance. Surgical robots are able to execute highly precise gestures that rapidly and stably position instruments in many degrees of freedom (DOFs). However, for the vast majority of surgical procedures, robotic positioning precision alone is not sufficient to realize the “right gesture”. Surgical plans are generally only a very idealised sketch of the intraoperative reality which is also defined by patient motion, tissue deformation, bleeding, and the like. Therefore, when finally deciding where exactly to make “the cut” (or intervene on tissue in any other irreversible manner), surgeons “disconnect” from the preoperative plan. Surgical teams resort to their own senses and experience. On the spot, based on the interpretation of the limited intraoperative scene, tactical decisions will be made.
In this context, for orthopedic applications (e.g. pedicle screw placement), a rich set of sensors that could then form a comprehensive representative of surgical scenes can be utilized to offer the sufficient sensory information for autonomous robotic control. By looking at a wide range of smart sensors and signal processing and modelling algorithms, this PhD will establish an improved understanding of and the robot’s pose and contact state within its surroundings for orthopedic surgeries and formulate a consolidated strategy to fuse multi-modal sensory information and eventually design real-time control schemes. The conducted research will be applied on degenerative spine diseases for diagnosis and surgical interventions within an expanding research line at the department of Mechanical Engineering.   

Key words: intraoperative sensing, orthopedic surgery, multi-scale sensing, data fusion, decision making, autonomous robot control, minimal invasive surgery, human-robot interaction.


  • Candidates must hold an engineeringdiploma (e.g. biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, electricalengineering, etc.) that gives access to the KU Leuven Arenberg Doctoral SchoolPhD program (MSc degree obtained “cum laude” or equivalent).
  • Candidates must be fluent in English.

  • We are seeking a highly motivated andresult-oriented candidate with a strong background in smart instrument design,signal processing, robotics and/or control.
  • Experience in signal processing, datafusion, deep learning, electronics, mechanical design, programming of C++,python, MATLAB or ROS would be an advantage.
  • Experience in machine learning, deeplearning is a bonus.
  • The candidate must have good problem solving skills, must be ambitious but above all a team player. 


The Department of Mechanical Engineering at theUniversity of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium is pleased to offer a fully fundedPhD scholarship to design smart intraoperative sensing for robotic orthopedicsurgical applications. The successful applicant will receive a PhD scholarshipfor 4 years


For more information please contact Mr. Kenan Niu, tel.: +32 16 19 39 96, mail: or Prof. dr. ir. Emmanuel Vander Poorten, tel.: +32 16 32 25 28, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than December 31, 2020 via the
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: December 31, 2020
  • Tags: Industriële Ingenieurswetenschappen
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