Two PhD positions in Formal Methods for Underwater Robots (RWTH Aachen, Uni Oslo)

by Einar Broch Johnsen, April 12, 2021

Two PhD positions in formal methods for underwater robots are available in the REMARO MSCA network. We are looking for excellent candidates with a background in formal methods, programming, logic and mathematics, who are curious how their knowledge can contribute to improve the quality of autonomous robots. As a PhD fellow in REMARO, you will work together with other PhD fellows in a scientific network with leading researchers from both academia and industry, with research stays and interaction across the network. The announced positions are ideal for students with an analytical mindset who enjoyed topics such as logic, concurrency theory, formal methods, executable models and model checking and software verification during their studies.

REMARO ( is an interdisciplinary training network for PhD students which combines expertise in submarine AI, software reliability and formal methods, and marine safety certification to educate 15 PhD fellows in topics in the area of reliable autonomy for underwater applications. REMARO is funded by the EU as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) training network for PhD fellows 01/12/2020 – 30/11/2024. 

Position at RWTH Aachen:  System-level verification of an autonomous underwater robot

Underwater pipeline inspection robots possess complex behavior involving e.g. AI-based learning, uncertainties in the environment, and the combination of the continuous evolution of physical quantities with the discrete nature of digital controllers. For their safety assessment, algorithms and tools for the analysis of these aspects in isolation are available, but their combination is scientifically as well as technically yet an interesting open problem. The goal of this project is to assess certain aspects of certain components and use these results to derive conclusions about the robot as a whole at system level, to be able to analyze complex behavior like autonomous navigation including obstacle detection and avoidance. 

* Prerequisites: Master degree or equivalent in computer science or informatics; fun with theoretical computer science and math; programming skills. A good command of spoken and written English is required.

* The applicant must not have lived in Germany more than 12 months in the last 3 years.

* Hiring institution: RWTH Aachen University

* PhD Enrollment: PhD position at the Department of Computer Science at RWTH Aachen University. The project involves collaboration with DFKI in Bremen, Ocean Scan in Porto, and ISEP in Porto. 

* Duration of the project: 36 months

* Main Academic Supervisor: prof. Erika Abraham, contact: [email protected]

* Co-supervisors: prof. Ana Maria Madureira (ISEP, Porto), Luis Madureira (OMST, Porto)

Position at University of Oslo: Continuous quality assurance for cognitive control

This PhD project aims to analyze the interaction between a control system and a dynamically evolving knowledge base for autonomous underwater robots. A knowledge-based component can be seen as a digital twin (a virtual model of the robot and its environment, based on perception) for representing and reasoning about the changing environment under water. The digital twin is used by controllers to plan, control, and adapt underwater missions. This project will develop new analysis techniques and tools to study how classes of changes in the knowledge base affect the robustness of the controllers. These new analysis techniques will be based on logic, formal methods (process calculi, automata theory, operational semantics, etc.) and concurrency theory. These techniques are particularly useful when studying the interactions of complex systems and analysing worst-case behavior. The focus of the PhD project will be on techniques to analyze how imprecisions and gaps of knowledge in the digital-twin may affect the behaviour of cognitive controllers.

* Prerequisites: Master degree or equivalent in computer science or informatics with background in the following fields: concurrency theory, algorithms and distributed systems, logic, executable/formal models, formal methods. A good command of spoken and written English is required and needs to be documented (see

* The applicant must not have lived in Norway more than 12 months in the last 3 years.

* Hiring institution: University of Oslo

* PhD Enrollment: PhD position at the Department of Informatics at University of Oslo. The project involves collaboration with DNV in Oslo, University of Bremen and ROSEN in Bremen

* Duration of the project: 36 months

* Main Academic Supervisor: prof. Einar Broch Johnsen (UiO, Norway), contact: [email protected] 

* Co-supervisors: prof. Michael Beetz (UB, Germany), dr. Erik Stensrud (DNV, Norway) 

How to Apply

We look forward to your application, containing a motivation letter (1-2 pages), your curriculum vitae and certificates of your studies, including course transcripts and grades. In your application, please state if you are interested in one or both positions.

Please send your application, including all documents, via email to Erika Abraham <[email protected]>.

* Application deadline: 15.05.2021

* Targeted starting time: between August 1  and September 30, 2021