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Research Studentship in Soft Robotics

Research Studentship in Soft Robotics

Project: Soft robotic end-effector for complex manipulation tasks in confined spaces

3.5-year DPhil studentship 

Supervisor: Prof Perla Maiolino, Soft Robotics Lab, Oxford Robotics Institute, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford


The University of Oxford, in collaboration with bp, seeks to fill a position for a PhD student to join the collaboration. The PhD student will have the chance to join the SRL lab at the Oxford Robotics Institute, which is a growing team with strong expertise in soft robotics, robotics manipulation, mechanical design and control. The lab owns cutting-edge 3-D printing facilities that allow the quick development of new prototypes with different bio-degradable materials.

bp's l ambition is to be a net zero company by 2050 or sooner and to help the world get to net zero. Bp has a strong focus on digital and robotics is an area of interest as it can help drive operational efficiencies, empower our workforce and engage better with our customers. 

The topic

This research will look to develop a robotic gripper for the interaction with materials of different textures, shape and weight. A first phase of the project will consist of a mechanical design study where the student will be asked to build a prototype of soft robotic gripper to be mounted on top of a compliant robot. This will include the selection of the appropriate actuation and electronics components. After the initial design phase, the student will be responsible for the implementation of the software to control the gripper to perform complex manipulation tasks. Because of the highly complex nature of soft materials and the difficulty to model their dynamic behavior, the PhD student will be encouraged to explore data-driven approaches such as reinforcement learning, also including exteroceptive sensors, for the end-effector to perform gripping and pushing tasks in confined spaces and complex geometry environments. 


The studentship is open to Home and International students. 

Award Value

The studentship will cover course fees at home or international rate and provide a stipend of no less than the standard UK Research Council rate (£17,668 per annum 23/24 academic year).

Candidate Requirements

We are searching for somebody with excellent academic potential and a commitment to researching and developing soft robotics research. A first-class degree in engineering or computer science is desirable, but we will consider students from other backgrounds. We also require high degree of independence, excellent communication skills, and fluency in English. 


Application Procedure

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be addressed to Prof Perla Maiolino

Application deadline:  noon on 30 June 2023

Start date: October 2023