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 ultrasound-guided robotics 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). Website unit


A key motivation for introducing robots in the operating roomhas been their ability to deliver very repeatable motion. Surgical robots areable to display very precise gestures positioninginstruments in multiple degrees of freedom (DOFs). However, for the vast majorityof surgical procedures this precision alone is not sufficient. Due to physiological phenomena, changes in posture or the surgical act itself there typically is rather poor understanding of where the target anatomy is located in space with respect to the robot. Real-time sensors such as ultrasound, but also force, torque, impedance, camera will be explored in this PhD thesis to better localize the patient or – in practice – more in detail locate the anatomical structures of interest. Simultaneous localisation and mapping techniques will be developed where, in contact with the patient, the robot tries to understand its own pose relative to the anatomy and at the same time creates a map of that anatomy. This improved understanding will then be exploited to drive robotic actions or surgical gestures with enhanced precision relative to the anatomy. The focus of this PhD is on spine surgery, but applications in related surgical fields may be considered as well.

Keywords: intraoperativesensing, data fusion, decision making,autonomous robot control, SLAM, minimal invasive surgery, human-robot interaction

  • Candidates must hold an engineering diploma (e.g. biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, etc.) that gives access to the KU Leuven Arenberg Doctoral School PhD program (MSc degree obtained “cum laude” or equivalent).
  • Candidates must be fluent in English.
  • We are seeking a highly motivated and result-oriented candidate with a strong background in smart instrument design,signal processing, robotics and/or control.
  • Experience in signal processing, data fusion, deep learning, electronics, mechanical design, programming of C++,python, MATLAB or ROS would be an advantage.
  • Experience in machine learning, deep learning 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 the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium is pleased to offer a fully funded PhD scholarship to design smart intra operative sensing for robotic surgical applications. The successful applicant will receive a PhD scholarship for 4 years


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Emmanuel Vander Poorten, tel.: +32 16 32 25 28, mail: [email protected] or Mr. Gianni Borghesan, tel.: +32 16 32 92 67, mail: [email protected] can apply for this job no later than May 31, 2022 via the online application toolKU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at diversiteit.HR[email protected]