KU Leuven

PROFESSOR MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, HAPTICS & VIRTUAL REALITY

KU Leuven

Leuven, Belgium

KU Leuven has a full-time vacancy for academic staff (professor) in Mechanical Engineering at the Technology Cluster Mechanical Engineering Technology, Group T Leuven Campus. The topic of the vacancy is haptics and virtual reality with a specialization in design and validation of haptic technology to interact with different instances of mediated realities. The focus lies on medical applications, but results could find leverage beyond this field. We are looking for internationally oriented candidates with an excellent research track record, with educational competence in the field of mechanical design, control and automation, oriented towards applications in industry. The successful candidate will be appointed at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Faculty of Engineering Technology of the Science & Technology Group.

Research of the Department of Mechanical Engineering addresses the most important societal challenges including sustainable energy supply, mobility, healthcare and industrial innovation. The Department is involved in a large amount of regional, national and international research projects and it strongly connected to the technology transfer services of the university and with Flemish and European research institutes for technology transfer. The Department has also been very successful in the creation of spin-off companies, illustrating the socio-economic relevance of its research. Many of these spin-off companies (like NIKON-Metrology, Materialise, 3DSystems-Layerwise, Siemens Industry Software NV) are technology leaders within their domain, and their products and services are renowned internationally.

The Smart Instrumentation research group is an interdisciplinary group within the Department of Mechanical Engineering with a strong emphasis on the development of new surgical instruments and assistive technology for medical applications, integrating advanced drive technology, novel sensing and modelling techniques to improve the execution of complex safety-critical tasks in highly unstructured and variable environments such as e.g. the human body. Through this vacancy the group is particularly interested in learning to understand how the mediated reality continuum can be exploited to accelerate the design process and to optimise the functionality of novel devices, surgical instruments and assistive technology in medical applications. Virtual reality and similar tools are particularly appealing for rapid, yet rigorous exploration and analysis of concepts through human-in-the-loop validation. Especially in early design stages this is of critical importance as these techniques could significantly reduce the length of the development cycle, amplify the impact of newly developed technology and maximise the chance for successful adoption and subsequent translation to industrial and clinical applications. Where validation of tangible mechanical or mechatronic systems is concerned, haptics, the feel of touch, forms a crucial element. Humans are highly susceptible to imperfections in haptic rendering and, up to now, limited success has been achieved in reaching the levels of haptic fidelity that are needed to re-create convincing virtual counterparts of sophisticated scenarios such as in the medical field. The Smart Instrumentation research group is particularly interested in filling in this void.

Through the integration in Group T Leuven Campus and in the Department of Mechanical Engineering you will have access to a solid research infrastructure, an extensive international research network, connections with industry and non-profit organizations, as well as a steady supply of talented PhD researchers. The group offers a positive and dynamic work environment embedded in a multi-disciplinary network with other research groups in the Department, the broader university and UZ Leuven, the University Hospital, which is also the largest hospital in the country.

The faculty of Engineering Technology has an extensive national and international network, both in the academic and business world.

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Duties

Research

Data is taking an increasingly important role in our society. Examples are the digital transformation, the breakthrough of artificial intelligence or the call for evidence-based medicine. Quantitative data can help accelerate mechanical designs and can, through assistive technology, help accelerate or simplify the execution of various tasks. As the opportunity for using this data increases the amount of data rises as well, and the need to find techniques to efficiently and intuitively deal with this data. In medical, mostly time-critical applications the ease and efficiency of use is often tightly related to the safety of the patients or more broadly its users. Traditionally one tends to resort to visual means to represent data.

Think of applications in virtual or augmented reality. Visual interaction, however, is very slow due to the long reaction time. Moreover, in many cases there is already an excess of visual stimuli to digest. Haptic interaction, on the other hand, is fast, natural and a channel that is often underused. Haptic feedback or haptic guidance can be used to work more efficiently at a distance or in a virtual environment. It can also be used to distort the real world. Haptics in such a `mediated’ reality has hardly been investigated up to now, but it has an excellent potential. Haptic schemes can be set up to produce better training programs or to simplify complex tasks through haptic guidance.

In this profile you will develop an international research program on haptic mediality. You will research and develop new ways of equipping real, augmented or virtual environments with haptic overlays, haptic guidance or haptic feedback in order to fully explore the possibilities of haptic mediality and realise new or improved medical/surgical applications. Relevant questions that arise in this context include amongst others: “How should we polish the (virtual) reality so that we still experience the physically augmented interaction as natural and intuitive?”; “What kind of overlays are best used for which tasks?”; “How can we adapt haptic overlays in real-time on the basis of dynamic phenomena occurring in the real and/or virtual world?”, “How can we guarantee in such case that the interaction is stable, safe and intuitive?”. Since haptic realism (fidelity) is crucial, mechanical (hardware/sensor), real-time modelling, control engineering, ergonomics, psychological and safety aspects need to be considered. This profile lends itself to contributions in one or more of these domains. Moreover, the research group has a strong interest in investigating how this haptic mediality can be used to accelerate the design of effective medical devices, since validation in early design stages of prototypes becomes possible in this haptic virtual reality.

In your research, you creatively integrate new insights and research results from various domains of engineering. In doing so, you pay attention to the valorisation of your research results towards the industry or the government. To this end, you develop the different concepts up to a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) that allows easy transfer as marketable technology to the work field.

You set up partnerships within and outside the department, within and outside the university, within and outside Flanders.

You engage in targeted scientific research, resulting in PhD’s and publications that meet international standards and lead to broad international recognition.

You support or initiate a network of companies through the valorisation of research results and by delivering industrial services, aimed at strengthening industrial innovation.

As part of your research programme, you develop international partnerships within the academic world as well as with industrial partners.

You are able to acquire competitive funding, both project-based government funding as well as industrial funding.

You strive for excellence and thus contribute to the further development of the research group and the faculty.

Education

You provide high-quality education to both Bachelor and Master students in the field of mechanical engineering such as mechanical design, mechatronics and automation, with a clear commitment to the quality of the programme as a whole. All professors are expected to teach a few basic undergraduate courses.

You contribute to the faculty’s and the university’s pedagogical project through the supervision of student projects (for example bachelor’s and master’s theses) and by acting as a promotor of PhD students.

You develop your teaching in accordance with KU Leuven’s views on activating and researched-based education and make use of the possibilities for educational professionalization offered by the faculty and the university.

Your teaching duties are determined in agreement and are based on your specific profile. The scope is limited in the first years of your appointment. In your further career, the faculty will also pay a great deal of attention to the balance between research and teaching time.

Service

You are prepared to provide scientific, societal and internal services. In particular, you are willing to provide services to the Government and to (regional) industry in the context of applied research assignments. Therefore, you stay up-to-date with both scientific state-of-the-art and with industrial state-of-practice in the field of mechanical design and automation.

You play an active role in profiling the Faculty of Engineering Technology towards new students and the industry sector by, for example, participating in information days and events.

Profile

You have a PhD in Engineering Technology, Engineering Science or a similar degree relevant to the vacancy.

You have a strong research track record in the discipline, evidenced by your publications or by your research experience in industry. You have the ambition to contribute to the valorisation of research in industry and in society. International experience is an important advantage.

You have verifiable qualities related to academic education. Teaching experience is an advantage.

You possess organisational skills and have a cooperative attitude. You also possess leadership competencies in a university or industry context.

Proficiency in English is required.

The official language used at KU Leuven is Dutch. If you do not speak Dutch (or do not speak it well) at the start of employment, KU Leuven will provide language training to enable you to take part in meetings.

Before teaching courses in Dutch or English, you will be given the opportunity to learn Dutch, respectively English, to the required standard.

Offer

We offer full-time employment in an intellectually challenging environment and with a high degree of freedom.

KU Leuven is a research-intensive, internationally oriented university that carries out both fundamental and applied scientific research. Our university is highly focused on interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research and strives for international excellence. In this regard, the university actively works together with research partners in Belgium and abroad and provides its students with an academic education that is based on high-quality scientific research.

Depending on your record and qualifications, you will be appointed to or tenured in one of the grades of the senior academic staff: assistant professor, associate professor, professor or full professor. In principle, junior researchers are appointed as assistant professor on the tenure track for a period of 5 years. At the end of this period and a positive evaluation, they are permanently appointed (or tenured) as associate professor.

For your research and teaching assignments, you will mainly work at the Group T Campus in Leuven, one of the operational sites of KU Leuven multi-campus Faculty of Engineering Technology with a focus on technological and industry-oriented training and research. Leuven is located in the center of Belgium, 30 minutes from Brussels, the capital of the European Union, and less than three hours from Paris, London and Amsterdam.

Other campuses can also make use of your expertise for teaching assignments. A start-up fund for the further development of research and attracting PhD students is provided.

KU Leuven places great importance on research integrity and ethical conduct and will therefore ask you to sign an integrity statement upon appointment.

Interested?

For more information on the contents of the job, please contact:

  • Prof. Dr. ir. Joris De Schutter, departmental chair Mechanical Engineering (joris.deschutter@kuleuven.be, +32 16 32 24 79)
  • Prof. Dr. ir. Koen Eneman, campus chair Group T Leuven Campus (koen.eneman@kuleuven.be)
    You can submit your application until XXXX, only through our online application system. If you have problems submitting your application online, please send an email to solliciteren@kuleuven.be.
    Add to your application following documents in English (more information is available on the KU Leuven job site):
  • your biosketch in which you indicate your added value as an academic for research, education and service to society of your past career and of your future activities (maximum 2 pages);
  • a file on your five most important publications or realizations;
  • an extensive cv including a full publication list and if applicable a portfolio of your architectural projects;
  • your research plan with focus on the development of your research line and research team in relation with the colleague-researchers of the entity of employment (maximum 4 pages);
  • your vision on academic education and its organization (maximum 2 pages);
  • your contribution to society by outreach and public communication on science and technology, internal representation in boards and councils and service activities directly in relation to your developed expertise (maximum 1 page);
  • your vision on leadership (maximum 1 page).

KU Leuven is committed to creating a diverse environment and is therefore an equal opportunity employer. It explicitly encourages candidates from groups that are currently underrepresented at the university to submit their applications.

You can apply for this job no later than October 05, 2020 via the nline application tool

KU 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@kuleuven.be.

Please apply via recruiter’s website.