Fully Funded PhD Scholarship in Underwater Robotic Perception and Intervention

    • POSTED: December 7, 2023
    • CLOSES: Open until filled.
    • LOCATION: Sydney, Australia
    • POSITION: PhD Scholarship
    • ORGANISATION: The University of Syndey
    • SUPERVISOR: Dr. Viorela Ila / Prof. Stefan Williams
    • PhD STIPEND: $40,000 AUD (Tax-Free)

    The Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) Marine Systems and Robotic Perception Groups at the University of Sydney has a fully funded PhD position open in underwater robotic perception, as part of the new Australian Robotic Inspection and Asset Management Research Hub, ARIAM.

    Applicants with a strong background in Robotics, Mechatronic Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Machine Learning, or similar programs are encouraged to apply.

    This project aims to develop new underwater perception methods for real-time scene understanding. This work is a collaboration with Reach Robotics, which is an industry leader in developing advanced robotic manipulators for marine and other harsh environments and will focus on methods that integrate with our industry partner’s cutting-edge underwater electric manipulators to support high-level automation of underwater intervention tasks. This collaboration will provide opportunities for close working experience and networking with industry leaders in marine systems.

    The challenges:

    • Fast-moving, tightly integrated 6-DOF underwater robotic platforms that inspect, map, and maintain infrastructure through mid-range and close-up operations
    • Murky water, bubbles, debris, low light, motion blur, and low-texture surfaces
    • Computationally limited systems and real-time throughput and latency requirements

    Depending on interest and ability, candidates will investigate one or more of:

    • Real-time algorithms for high-fidelity 3D reconstruction of close-up underwater scenes,
    • Methods for semantic scene understanding and reconstruction such as mapping with known structural priors,
    • Methods for real-time 3D scene reconstruction to enabling high-level automation of intervention tasks.

    Research Environment

    ARIAM Hub is a collaboration between leading academic researchers and experts from the Australian robotics industry supported by the Australian Research Council to deliver research excellence in robotics for asset management. ARIAM spans 3 leading Australian universities: The University of Sydney, QUT and ANU. This position is supervised by Dr. Viorela Ila and Professor Stefan Williams at University of Sydney.

    The ACFR is the largest robotics and automation research group in Australia and is one of the largest in the world. For over 20 years the ACFR has been a leader in research and training in field robotics, with programs in agriculture, intelligent transportation systems including autonomous driving, and in marine robotics including an ongoing benthic monitoring program operating multiple ROVs and AUVs. The ACFR offers specialised labs and facilities, robotic platforms, test tanks and robotic field labs across on-campus and nearby off-campus sites. You will have access to mechanical and electronics workshops and a pool of technical staff to help realise your research ambitions. The ACFR is part of The University of Sydney which offers a rich academic setting in a world-class city.

    The Marine Systems Group hosts a medium test tank for developing novel underwater scene reconstruction techniques.  We have access to a broad range of underwater robotic systems.

    • BlueROV2 platforms equipped with stereo imaging and Reach Robotics manipulator
    • AUV platforms for high resolution seafloor imaging
    • Unmanned Surface Vessel
    • Sensors including imaging, sonar and positioning systems

    Reach Robotics are headquartered a short walk from the University of Sydney campus, where they develop advanced manipulator arm solutions for harsh underwater environments. Their products enable complex inspection and intervention in maritime infrastructure management, marine science, autonomous robotics research applications, and more.

    The advertised role is part of a larger opportunity that will hire and bring together a large group of PhD students and multiple Postdocs. For more on ARIAM, our partners, and opportunities to join the hub please visit the ARIAM Research Hub website.


    Fully funded 3.5-year PhD scholarship covering tuition fees and stipend.

    About You

    Successful candidates will have:

    • A bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline
    • Interest in robotics and perception with direct impact in an entrepreneurial, dynamic industry
    • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
    • Hands-on experience with robotic platforms, ROS, Python, C++, and/or deep learning frameworks would also be an asset
    • Creativity, curiosity, rigour and passion

    How to Apply

    To apply, please fill out the form below with the subject line “ACFR Marine PhD Application:” and your name. Include the following:

    • CV
    • Unofficial transcripts
    • Cover letter

    Please also include a Google Drive link to a 2-minute selfie video covering the following:

    • Your strongest engineering skills
    • What do you enjoy most about developing technology
    • A description of a project that you’re proud of, or plan to be when completed

    International Applicants

    Domestic and international applicants are welcome. The Australian PhD is a 3.5-year program, generally with direct entry from an undergraduate degree with a final-year thesis project (see Admission Criteria below).

    Candidates complete a total of two graduate-level classes of their choice as part of the PhD program. There are no doctoral qualifying / candidacy exams. Candidates complete a viva / oral thesis defence at the completion of the program.

    Admission Criteria

    Successful candidates will need to enrol in the University of Sydney’s Doctor of Philosophy (Engineering) program. Enrolment requirements are listed on the University website here. Key requirements are:

    • An Undergraduate or Master’s degree with overall first-class Honours or equivalent, AND
    • Some sort of research experience, either:
      • Completion of an Undergraduate degree with a final-year thesis/project, OR
      • Completion of a Master’s by research degree, OR
      • Completion of a Master’s by coursework degree with a substantial research project.


    Job Application

    Please add your highest achieved grade in the grading format of your university.
    Please add the academic institutions that you have attended.
    Drop files here or
    Max. file size: 20 MB.
      Please upload your CV, cover letter and transcripts. Please include a link to a Google Drive link to a 2-minute selfie video as per the requirements listed above.