PhD Position in Safe and Dependable Autonomous Systems; Safety Requirements Engineering

Catholic University of Leuven

The position is part of project that is a close collaboration between the DistriNet research group in Leuven and the M-Group in Bruges. The PhD position is mainly located in the Leuven campus, with frequent meetings and visits to the Bruges campus. The DistriNet Research Group DistriNet is an internationally renowned research group of the KU Leuven. The group is part of the Department of Computer Science and of the KU Leuven Security and Privacy Competence Center. With a headcount of over 80 researchers, we have built up expertise on a wide range of topics such as distributed software and autonomous systems, formal specification and verification, middleware for cloud computing, network and software security, software for embedded systems and smart devices. For more information, visit us at About the M-Group Research Group The M-Group is focused on the growing demand, by builders and users, for machines and systems to more advanced and fully integrated mechatronic systems. With a headcount of 25+ junior researchers and 3 senior researchers, the team is fast growing. Our competences relevant for this project are in the field of software coding (resilient software behaviour, functional safety, model-based development, embedded software, etc.) and dependable electronics (electromagnetic compatibility, mission- and safety-critical systems, virtual and physical testing, mission- and safety-critical systems, etc.). For more information about our ongoing research projects and other open positions, visit us at


Safety is a crucial concern for autonomous systems like robots, cars, drones, off-road vehicles, etc. While a myriad of studies today focus on perception and control, the new project called ‘SAFETEE’ project aims for a vertical, in-depth study of a full-stack software platform for decision making.

For this project, we are looking for several PhD students and a postdoctoral researcher to strengthen our team. The project includes research on studying safety requirements engineering, provably safe decision making, dependable middleware, and EMI-resilient hardware. A joint use case will be used to validate the individual research tracks as well as their integration. The use case is a mobile autonomous robot.

This specific PhD position is on requirements engineering for safety in autonomous systems. This track will study how to unambiguously specify safety requirements, and verify the completeness and consistency of the safety constraints. Starting from ‘System Theoretic Process Analysis‘ (STPA), we will check whether STPA scales towards autonomous systems and if/how STPA can account for autonomous systems that may adapt during operation due to learning and the use of Artificial Intelligence. The research will be inspired by, and validated in the joint use case.


For this position, we expect:
  • a master in computer science (or equivalent),
  • strong software engineering knowledge and expertise (for the record, if you are unaware of the difference between software engineering and programming, abstain from applying),
  • a strong interest in relevant areas (requirements engineering, system safety engineering, formal methods and verification, robotics),
  • an analytical mindset and technical skills,
  • fluent English communication skills.


We offer you...

  • a challenging research project on a topic that is cutting-edge and very timely!
  • a supportive and collaborative environment in which you can develop know-how and expertise in state-of-the-art technologies,
  • the opportunity to further develop research and innovation skills that are essential for a future career in industrial as well as academic research and development environments,
  • support in the further development of your competences to analyse strategic research problems and to architect and evaluate innovative solutions with industrial applicability,
  • a top-quality research and education environment at the KU Leuven High Tech Campuses in Leuven and Brugge.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Tom Holvoet, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than October 30, 2020 via the
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: October 30, 2020
  • Tags: Computerwetenschappen