PhD Studentship - Deep Reinforcement Learning for Robot Perception, Reasoning and Interaction

Birmingham, West Midlands
07 Jun 2018
End of advertisement period
15 Jun 2018
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Applications are invited for a three year Postgraduate studentship, supported the School of Engineering and Applied Science to be undertaken within the System Analytics Research Institute (SARI), Computer Science group at Aston University. The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on artificial perception and machine learning towards human-robot interaction.

The position is available to start in October 2018 (subject to negotiation)

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the home/EU fees rate plus a maintenance allowance of £14,777 in 2018/19.

Applicants from outside the EU may apply for this studentship but will need to pay the difference between the ‘Home/EU’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees, currently this is £12,290 in 2018/19.

As part of the application you will be required to confirm that you have applied for, or, secured this additional funding.

Background of the Project

The primary goal of this project is to investigate and develop techniques to endow a robot with cognitive and social skills, such that the robot is able to interact with human beings and objects in human environments in a fluid and socially acceptable manner. With that in mind, it is expected that the Ph.D. candidate will design and develop an approach based on reinforcement learning in which a robot can autonomously learn to adapt its strategy to interact with humans and objects. In this context, the robot with its perception and learning capabilities will focus on how to interact to humans or objects in a given context, learning from its own experiences and, to do so, techniques such as recurrent neural networks, long-short term memory and Q-learning can be alternatives to find an optimal action-selection policy. As an important aspect of the learning to be carried out, it is to learn from a synthetic environment simulating human behaviours and/or objects, and through transfer learning, the knowledge acquired from that interaction can be applied to a real-world context, thus avoiding long periods of interaction with humans and objects in a real environment. The possible applications/contexts that can be considered, but not limited to, are: robot learning by imitation in manipulation tasks, robot (re-)actions based on human behaviour and emotional expressions; etc.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have a first class or upper second class honours degree or equivalent qualification in Computer Science or Electrical Engineering or related degrees. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of machine learning, artificial perception or robotics.

For informal enquiries about this project and other opportunities within the Computer Science Research Group, contact Dr Diego Faria (main supervisor) or Dr George Vogiatzis (co-supervisor) by email or

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at

We would particularly like to encourage application from women seeking to progress their academic careers. Aston University is committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recently recognised by a prestigious Silver Award to EAS, and we pride ourselves on our vibrant, friendly and supportive environment and family atmosphere.

The online application form, reference forms and details of entry requirements, including English language are available here.

Applications must also be accompanied by a research proposal giving an overview of the main themes of the research, and explaining how your knowledge and experience will benefit the project.

Details of how to write your project proposal are also included in the How to Apply section.

Further particulars and application forms are available in alternative formats on request i.e. large print, Braille, tape or CD Rom.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact HR via

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