Postdoc Robot Manipulation in Retail Environments

Postdoc Robot Manipulation in Retail Environments

Published Deadline Location
5 Jul 31 Jul Delft

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You will be responsible for the work on robotics grasping and manipulation in retail environments and collaborate with 4 PhD students, 1 Postdoc and technical support staff within the scope of AIR-Lab Delft.

Job description

Robots are slowly entering the retail domain (supermarkets, stores, warehouses, delivery, etc.). In this project we focus on mobile manipulation in retail environments. Your work will focus on grasping and manipulation.

The PostDoc position is in the context of the project "AI for Retail Lab" (AIR-Lab) Delft, a joint TUDelft-Ahold Delhaize industry lab. Ahold Delhaize is a Dutch multinational retail company active in the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Luxembourg, Romania, Serbia, and the United States. Besides supermarkets, Ahold Delhaize is also active in the fields of liquore stores, drug stores, and as online grocer, as well as the largest webshop in the Netherlands.

You will be working closely together with a team of 4 PhD students and 1 PostDoc (covering topics such as whole body motion planning, self-adaptive robot architectures, design of human-robot interactions, optimization for last mile delivery, and ethics) as well as a team of technical support staff. The PIs in AIR-Lab Delft are Javier Alonso-Mora, Carlos Hernandez-Corbato, Jens Kober, Marco Rozendaal, Filippo Santoni de Sio, and Martijn Wisse with all of whom you will have regular interactions.

The handling of bulk units can be largely automated, handling individual items is still an open problem despite tremendous progress in pick and place actions. For grasping and manipulation, particular challenges include:

  • handling fragile objects, e.g., fruits and vegetables that not only exhibit a large natural variation but are also flexible and fragile.
  • handling a huge variety of objects, e.g., supermarkets carry a few tens of thousands items.
  • handling narrow and tight spaces, e.g., items are tightly packed on shelves, requiring pulling / pushing them for order picking / re-stocking, but also perception is limited.

Rather than manually designing and programming robots to deal with these challenges, we believe that robots will need to be equipped with the capability of adapting and learning on their own, i.e., with artificial intelligence. Besides mainly data-driven methods such as (deep) reinforcement learning, inverse reinforcement learning, or imitation learning, we are also very interested in methods that integrate prior knowledge (e.g., in the form of models, planning, reasoning) to render learning processes tractable and efficient.

The main focus of the Cognitive Robotics department is the development of intelligent robots and vehicles that will advance mobility, productivity and quality of life. Our mission is to bring robotic solutions to human-inhabited environments, focusing on research in the areas of machine perception, motion planning and control, machine learning, automatic control and physical interaction of intelligent machines with humans. We combine fundamental research with work on physical demonstrators in areas such as self-driving vehicles, collaborative industrial robots, mobile manipulators and haptic interfaces. Strong collaborations exist with cross-faculty institutes TU Delft Robotics Institute and TU Delft Transport Institute), our national robotic ecosystem (RoboHouse, Holland Robotics) and international industry and academia. 


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


You have (or will soon have) a PhD degree in systems and control, robotics, applied mathematics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, or a related subject. You must have strong analytical skills and must be able to work at the intersection of several research domains. If you have worked on real robot grapsing and/or manipulation you are especially encouraged to apply. Experience with machine learning is a plus.

You must have demonstrated ability to conduct high-quality research according to international standards, as demonstrated by publications in international, high-quality journals. A very good command of the English language is required, as well as excellent communication skills.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 2 years.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (salary indication: € 3.561 - € 4.490 per month). The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount 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. An International Children's Centre offers childcare and there is an international primary school.

The position is available immediately, the latest possible starting date is December 2022. This Postdoc position is a temporary assignment for two years.


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 and aim to be as inclusive as possible (see our Code of Conduct). Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.

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? This video will introduce you to some of our researchers and their work.


  • Postdoc
  • Engineering
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • Doctorate
  • TUD02312


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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