PhD Candidate in Autonomous Navigation of Marine Surface Vessels

Updated: 4 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 29 May 2023

About the job

For a position as a PhD Candidate, the goal is a completed doctoral education up to an obtained doctoral degree. 

The Department of ICT and Natural Sciences at NTNU in Ålesund is seeking a PhD candidate in the topic of autonomous navigation of marine surface vessels. The aim of this scholarship is to utilize state-of-the-art methods in deep reinforcement learning (DRL) to develop an autonomous navigation system (ANS) with collision avoidance capabilities, and employ tools from explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) to achieve the transparency needed for real-world deployment.

Although DRL has shown unprecedented success in many domains, successful real-life applications of DRL to physical problems remain somewhat limited. This project offers a unique opportunity to bring DRL "out of the lab" and onto the ship bridge or remote operations center, by exploiting the domain expertise of the maritime cluster.

The candidate will be part of the Cyber-Physical Systems Laboratory  together with several other PhD candidates and post docs working on the topic of autonomous ships, but will also be connected with several research groups at NTNU, in particular the SFI AutoShip  Centre for Research-based Innovation.

Your immediate leader is Head of the department.

Duties of the position

The candidate will work with state-of-the-art methods in DRL and XAI to develop novel methods for autonomous navigation.  This involves interacting with domain experts and end-users, and verification will be carried out in controlled experiments together with trained navigators in NTNU’s training simulators.

The candidate will also be expected to:

  • carry out experimental work
  • write scientific papers
  • participate actively in the AI and autonomous ship communities at NTNU
  • present findings at internal meetings as well as national and international workshops and conferences

Required selection criteria

  • Master’s degree in engineering cybernetics, computer science, marine technology, electrical/mechanical engineering or similar.
  • Strong programming skills, preferably in C/C++, Python, and/or Matlab.
  • Strong capabilities in one or more of the following: 
    • Guidance, navigation and control (GNC) systems
    • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
    • Marine engineering/ship operations 
  • Good written and oral English language skills.
  • Your education must correspond to a five-year Norwegian degree program, where 120 credits are obtained at master's level. You must have a strong academic background from your previous studies and an average grade from the master's degree program, or equivalent education, which is equal to B or better compared with NTNU's grading scale. If you do not have letter grades from previous studies, you must have an equally good academic basis. If you have a weaker grade background, you may be assessed if you can document that you are particularly suitable for a PhD education.
  • Final year Master's students can apply, but documentation of a completed master's degree must be presented before taking up the position.
  • You must meet the requirements for admission to the PhD programme in Engineering Cybernetics 

The appointment is to be made in accordance with Regulations relating to terms and conditions of employment for positions such as post-doctoral fellow, research fellow, research assistant and specialist candidate - Lovdata Regulations on terms of employment for positions such as postdoctoral fellow, Phd candidate, research assistant and specialist candidate  and Regulations concerning the degrees of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) and Philosodophiae Doctor (PhD) in artistic research national guidelines for appointment as PhD, post doctor and research assistant 

Preferred selection criteria

  • knowledge about reinforcement learning
  • knowledge about XAI
  • experience form the maritime domain
  • knowledge of The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs)
  • experience working with maritime training simulators
  • relations with local maritime industry
  • documented experience from relevant industry
  • work experience post MSc
  • scientific publications in relevant fields

Personal characteristics

  • good communication skills
  • ability to work independently as well as being a good team player
  • being proactive and creative
  • analytical skills

Emphasis will be placed on personal and interpersonal qualities.

We offer

Salary and conditions

As a PhD candidate (code 1017) you are normally paid from NOK 501 200 per annum before tax, depending on qualifications and seniority. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.

The period of employment is 3 years.

Appointment to a PhD position requires that you are admitted to the PhD programme in Engineering Cybernetics  within three months of employment, and that you participate in an organized PhD programme during the employment period. 

The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants , and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to NTNU. After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

Please note that the candidate holding the announced position is expected to work with critical national objects and infrastructure in Norway. Candidates with the potential of not fulfilling requirement for security clearance, access clearance and authorization as described in the Act Relating to National Security, cannot be considered for the position.

After the appointment you must assume that there may be changes in the area of work.

It is a prerequisite you can be present at and accessible to the institution on a daily basis.

About the application

The application and supporting documentation to be used as the basis for the assessment must be in English.

Publications and other scientific work must follow the application. Please note that your application will be considered based solely on information submitted by the application deadline. You must therefore ensure that your application clearly demonstrates how your skills and experience fulfil the criteria specified above.

The application must include: 

  • CV and certificates
  • Motivation letter
  • Transcripts and diplomas for bachelor's and master's degrees.
  • A copy of the master's thesis. If you recently have submitted your master's thesis, you can attach a draft of the thesis. Documentation of a completed master's degree must be presented before taking up the position.
  • Name and contact information of three referees
  • If you have publications or other relevant research work
  • Any other relevant documentation

If all, or parts, of your education has been taken abroad, we also ask you to attach documentation of the scope and quality of your entire education, both bachelor's and master's education, in addition to other higher education. Description of the documentation required can be found here . If you already have a statement from NOKUT, please attach this as well.

We will take joint work into account. If it is difficult to identify your efforts in the joint work, you must enclose a short description of your participation.

In the evaluation of which candidate is best qualified, emphasis will be placed on education, experience and personal and interpersonal qualities. Motivation, ambitions, and potential will also count in the assessment of the candidates. 

NTNU is committed to following evaluation criteria for research quality according to The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment - DORA.

General information

Working at NTNU

NTNU believes that inclusion and diversity is our strength. We want to recruit people with different competencies, educational backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives to contribute to solving our social responsibilities within education and research. We will facilitate for our employees’ needs.

NTNU is working actively to increase the number of women employed in scientific positions and has a number of resources to promote equality.

The city of Ålesund, with its population of 50 000, will provide you with plenty of opportunities to explore a region of Norway that is famous for its beautiful scenery with high mountains and blue fjords. Ålesund itself, with its Art Nouveau architecture, is by many considered to be the most beautiful city in Norway! The Norwegian welfare state, including healthcare, schools, kindergartens and overall equality, is probably the best of its kind in the world.

As an employee at NTNU, you must at all times adhere to the changes that the development in the subject entails and the organizational changes that are adopted.

A public list of applicants with name, age, job title and municipality of residence is prepared after the application deadline. If you want to reserve yourself from entry on the public applicant list, this must be justified. Assessment will be made in accordance with current legislation . You will be notified if the reservation is not accepted.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact Professor Robin T. Bye, email:  or Assistant Professor Erlend M. Coates, email: . If you have any questions about the recruitment process, please contact the Deputy Head for Research Professor Agus Hasan, email:  or the Head of Office Gunn Helen Hellevik, e-mail: .

If you think this looks interesting and in line with your qualifications, please submit your application electronically via with your CV, diplomas and certificates attached. Applications submitted elsewhere will not be considered. Upon request, you must be able to obtain certified copies of your documentation.  

Application deadline: 29.05.2023.

NTNU - knowledge for a better world

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) creates knowledge for a better world and solutions that can change everyday life.

Department of ICT and Natural Sciences

Our campus in Ålesund works in a partnership with industry that is in a class of its own among Norwegian universities. This ensures a practical focus for our study programmes, while they are firmly anchored in modern theory. The Department offers programmes in automation engineering, computer engineering, electric power systems, simulation and visualization. Our research areas include autonomous vessels, robotics, cybernetics, medical technology and health informatics, and artificial intelligence. The Department of ICT and Natural Sciences  is one of seven departments in the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering  .

Deadline 29th May 2023
Employer NTNU - Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Municipality Ålesund
Scope Fulltime
Duration Temporary
Place of service NTNU Campus Ålesund

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