Doctoral candidate (PhD student) in the field of soft matter physics applied in robotics

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Offer Description

The University of Luxembourg is an international research university with a distinctly multilingual and interdisciplinary character. The University was founded in 2003 and counts more than 6,700 students and more than 2,000 employees from around the world. The University’s faculties and interdisciplinary centres focus on research in the areas of Computer Science and ICT Security, Materials Science, European and International Law, Finance and Financial Innovation, Education, Contemporary and Digital History. In addition, the University focuses on cross-disciplinary research in the areas of Data Modelling and Simulation as well as Health and System Biomedicine. Times Higher Education ranks the University of Luxembourg #3 worldwide for its “international outlook,” #20 in the Young University Ranking 2021 and among the top 250 universities worldwide.

The Faculty of Science, Technology and Medicine (FSTM) contributes multidisciplinary expertise in the fields of MathematicsPhysicsEngineeringComputer ScienceLife Sciences and Medicine. Through its dual mission of teaching and research, the FSTM seeks to generate and disseminate knowledge and train new generations of responsible citizens, in order to better understand, explain and advance society and environment we live in.

The University of Luxembourg (UL) invites applications for the following vacancy at the Faculty of Sci­ence, Technology and Medicine (FSTM), Department of Physics and Materials Science (DPhyMS), Experimental Soft Matter Physics (ESMP) group: Doctoral candidate (PhD student) in the field of soft matter physics applied in robotics.

Your Role…

The project is about a new generation of fiducial markers (as those used in robotics and Augmented Reality to encode information about objects on which they are applied) designed to carry encrypted messages interpretable only by authorized parties. The markers are made using polymerized Cholesteric liquid crystal Spherical selective Retroreflectors (CSRs), allowing them to be invisible to humans while easy to detect by machine vision. This is a strongly multidisciplinary project, carried out in collaboration with Prof. Holger Voos, head of the Automation & Robotics Group (ARG), and Prof. Gabriele Lenzini, head of the Interdisciplinary Research group in Sociotechnical Cybersecurity (IRiSC), both at the UL Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT). You will be a member of the ESMP group at DPhyMS, FSTM, working under the supervision of the group leader Prof. Jan Lagerwall, and you will be working closely together with PhD candidates of the ARG and IRiSC groups who are being recruited simultaneously. While being rooted in soft matter physics/chemistry and photonics, the teamwork will expose you to challenges within computer science, encryption, and robotics engineering.

You will be adapting our methods for making CSR-based fiducial markers with the explicit aims to maximize signal strength over large distances without compromising angle-independent detectability and invisibility to humans, test and improve robustness against physical wear and varying weather conditions, and take part in the design and realization of optimized portable read-out equipment that includes both tailor-made illuminators and machine vision operating in the invisible UV/IR ranges.


  • Participate actively in the research project as described above
  • Write manuscripts for articles to be published in leading international scientific journals
  • Write a thesis in the domain of soft matter physics, with strongly interdisciplinary components
  • Contribute to interdisciplinary research intersecting materials physics, computer science and robotic engineering, as well as to teaching and public outreach activities
What we expect from you…

This project calls for an open character with curiosity across discipline boundaries, combining the problem-solving mindset of an engineer, the materials optimization strategies of a chemist, with a physicist’s fascination for science and desire for in-depth understanding. We do not expect any single person to be an expert across all these fields, but you must be open to learn about and embrace challenges in fields you may not yet have been working with. We thus warmly encourage you to apply even if you feel that you only partially meet the criteria in terms of background and expertise, as you will have the opportunity to acquire the missing knowledge during the first year of the project.

  • This project requires that you have a nationality from a NATO country
  • Master’s degree (or equivalent) in physics, chemistry or materials science/engineering
  • Experience in quantitative research methods and practical work in physics/engineering labs
  • Curiosity, a genuine passion for scientific research and a desire to go beyond the state of the art
  • Good knowledge and understanding of materials physics and chemistry, including polarized light op­tics, light–matter interaction, and the thermodynamics of phases and phase transitions. We consider knowledge in and experience of soft matter physics and chemistry, especially in polymers and liquid crystals, as strong assets
  • Openness to interdisciplinary research and commitment to teamwork
  • Commitment and capacity to critical thinking and good research ethics
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills in English


  • Diversity and inclusiveness are key values for the ESMP team and its culture
  • Dynamic, international and multicultural environment with high expectations and ambitions
  • You will experience real research and learn to appreciate the fact that the outcome is most often not quite what was expected, analyse the reasons for this surprise, and thereby improve our current understanding and become a true expert in your field
  • Personal workspace and computer and access to all relevant labs at the University
In Short…
  • Contract Type: Fixed Term Contract 36 Month (extendable up to 48 months if required)
  • Foreseen starting date: Early 2024
  • Work Hours: Full Time 40.0 Hours per Week
  • Employee and student status
  • Job Reference: DPHYMS UOL06048 – DEFENCE22/IS/17800397/INVISIMARK

The yearly gross salary for every PhD at the UL is EUR 40952 (full time)

How to apply…

Applications should include:

  • Motivation letter answering the following questions: why do you want to work for a Ph.D. de­gree; why at the University of Luxembourg; why in the Experimental Soft Matter Physics group; and why on this project?
  • PDF version of your master thesis (file should be no larger than 20MB; compress images if necessary)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • List of publications (if available)
  • Digital copies of diplomas and complete course grade transcripts (B.Sc. and M.Sc.)

We ensure a full consideration for applications received by 30/11/2023. Please apply ONLINE formally through the HR system. Applications by email will not be considered.

The University of Luxembourg embraces inclusion and diversity as key values. We are fully committed to removing any discriminatory barrier related to gender, and not only, in recruitment and career progression of our staff.

In return you will get…
  • Multilingual and international character. Modern institution with a personal atmosphere. Staff coming from 90 countries. Member of the “University of the Greater Region” (UniGR).
  • A modern and dynamic university. High-quality equipment. Close ties to the business world and to the Luxembourg labour market. A unique urban site with excellent infrastructure.
  • A partner for society and industry. Cooperation with European institutions, innovative companies, the Financial Centre and with numerous non-academic partners such as ministries, local governments, associations, NGOs …
Further information…

For further information please see the website of the ESMP group,, or contact its leader, Prof. Jan Lagerwall,

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