PhD Position Tactile primitives of human manipulation

PhD Position Tactile primitives of human manipulation

Published Deadline Location
3 Oct 6 Nov Delft

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Let's discover how humans are using their sense of touch to manipulate.

Job description

We are looking for a highly-motivated PhD candidate, interested in performing cutting-edge research in haptics. Within this project, you will study how humans use their sense of touch for dexterous tasks. We will use optical technology developed in the lab to observe the skin movement while participants manipulate objects. Ultrasonic friction modulation will be used to change the friction of the object in real-time and discover behavioral adaptations.

Our group recently found that the deformation of the skin carries rich information about the friction, that can be accessed in the first 100ms of contact ( However, how we still don’t know how we use this tactile information when executing complex manipulation movements. During the 4 years of the Ph.D. program, you will explore how humans estimate friction and anticipate partial slips during grasp. Together, we will unravel how humans use touch to trigger subconscious regulatory behaviors subserving manipulation.

Within this PhD position you will:

  1. Design and develop a new apparatus that can image the skin contact and vary friction in real-time.
  2. Use this apparatus to measure how humans use touch to react to external perturbations and during voluntary movements.
  3. Derive a model of tactile-driven sensorimotor coordination in humans.

This position is part of a NWO funded-project closely connected to industrial partners. The results of this project have fundamental implications in neuroscience, haptics, robotics, and prosthetics.


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


We are looking for someone with a MSc degree (or about to get a MSc) in the field of Mechanical Engineering, System and Control, Robotics, or any related field. The ideal candidate has a background and/or affinity with:

  • Biomechanics and/or Human factors
  • Mechatronics and/or Control theory
  • Signal processing and machine learning

Attributes we are looking for:

  • A curiosity-driven person with a ‘can learn anything’ mentality
  • An independent thinker with a critical attitude
  • An initiative taker
  • Enthusiasm toward running human experiments

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

You will be part of the Tactile Machines Lab headed by Michael Wiertlewski. We offer active supervision and ample opportunities to share your work and progress. The lab is equipped with cutting-edge instruments including high-speed camera and laser doppler vibrometer, Kuka and UR robots and Allegro hand. The lab is part of the Human-Robot Interaction section within Cognitive Robotics Department (CoR)  of the Mechanical Engineering faculty (3mE). You will be part of a vibrant and collaborative team of researchers dedicated to furthering the knowledge of robotics and human sciences. 

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.


Delft University of Technology

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!


Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering

The Faculty of 3mE carries out pioneering research, leading to new fundamental insights and challenging applications in the field of mechanical engineering. From large-scale energy storage, medical instruments, control technology and robotics to smart materials, nanoscale structures and autonomous ships. The foundations and results of this research are reflected in outstanding, contemporary education, inspiring students and PhD candidates to become socially engaged and responsible engineers and scientists. The faculty of 3mE is a dynamic and innovative faculty with an international scope and high-tech lab facilities. Research and education focus on the design, manufacture, application and modification of products, materials, processes and mechanical devices, contributing to the development and growth of a sustainable society, as well as prosperity and welfare.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering. Do you want to experience working at our faculty? These videos will introduce you to some of our researchers and their work.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD02824


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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