PhD Positions in Robots

Wageningen University


Two PhD positions in ROBOFOOD: New Science and Technology of Edible Robots and Robotic Food for Human and Animals

Published on
March 30, 2021

Location Wageningen

End date Sat 1 May 2021

We are looking for

Are you a talented graduate student who would like to realise the future? Are you interested in research that will revolutionize the way in which we think about our food and what it can do? We look for two PhD students that are inspired by the idea of creating a fully functional robot of food materials? If so, we invite you to apply for one of the PhD positions in our Robofood team!

We usually think of the material properties of foods in relation to their palatability. But food materials are highly structured and have many intriguing properties; so we could also investigate them in a wider context. In a recently funded European project we will explore the suitability of food materials for structural purposes, for sensing, and for creation motion (actuation). Together with partners in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Italy, we will then use these materials to make edible robots. These may be used to deliver lifesaving nutrients to people in emergency situations, or to help people with specific illnesses. It will make us think about foods in a very different way. 

One PhD candidate will create a library of food components with suitable functional properties for robotic food applications, and studying methods to obtain those components from raw materials. For example, food materials that show responses to electrical, chemical, or thermal stimulations will be investigated. The second PhD candidate will focus on assembling food components into functional parts of the edible robots, and on assessing the nutritional profile and life cycle of the robots. For example, advanced food processing techniques such as 3D/4D printing will be employed to create robotic food. Ideally, the created robots will be completely digested or be degraded in nature after use. 

To create such robotic foods, interdisciplinary research approach is required of a kind that does not currently exist. You will be collaborating closely with each other and with leading European scientists in the field of robotics, sensing and food science in this project and perform highly interdisciplinary research which will bring positive health, social and environmental impact. You will be communicating your findings which might inspire others by publishing in high-impact scientific journals, and by attending (inter)national conferences. 

These two PhD position are part of a new science group that has been created by the National Sectorplan Techniek, on Additive Food Assembly. This group will be hosted by a vibrant, growing and collaborative group on Food Process Engineering. 

We ask


  • You have a completed MSc degree in food technology, mechanical engineering, material science, robotics or related field;
  • you have experience in or have affinity with 3D printing, automation or sensing technology; 
  • you are a creative, enthusiastic, independent researcher with team spirit, good communication skills, and lab skills. 
  • you are motivated for coaching and inspiring BSc and MSc students, and working together with external partners from different backgrounds.
  • you have excellent English language proficiency (a minimum of CEFR C2 level). You have both good writing and speaking skills. For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page. 
  • you meet all the entry requirements of the WUR PhD programme.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our  Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • Sabbatical leave, study leave, and paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.395,- per month rising to € 3.061,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

Wageningen University & Research encourages internal advancement opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.
You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the Best University in the Netherlands for the 16th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad

Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family. 

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community pagepage contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

More information

Do you want more information?

For more information about this position, please contact dr. Lu Zhang, assistant professor, telephone +31 317485411 or by e-mail:
For more information about the procedure, please contact Ina Lüttmann, HR adviser, email:

Do you want to apply?

You can apply directly using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval. 
This vacancy will be listed up to and including 1 May 2021. We hope to schedule the first job interviews on Mid-May 2021.

Equal opportunities 

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusive webpage. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

We are

We are Food Process Engineering research group, a group of about 15-20 staff (scientific and technical), 45 – 55 PhD students and postdocs, and typically 50 – 80 BSc and MSc students doing their theses in our group per year. The group is strongly internationally oriented and recognised and works together with scientific groups and industries from all over the world. We work as team on finding new ways to prepare the foods of the future. This implies finding new ways to make food production more sustainable, but also to explore new forms of foods. For this, we want to combine understanding on (supra)molecular properties, mesoscale interactions, towards the prediction of macro-scale properties of foods or food components, under conditions of processing. In the sub-group of additive food assembly, we develop autonomous, adaptive systems for food production (e.g. 3D food printing) and we focus on processing and assembly of complex food materials towards improved functionality. We conduct research at the interface of food science, material science, data science and sensing technology.  

Wageningen University & Research

The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 6.500 employees and 12.500 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

These are the points our employees list as good reasons to come work at WUR: read the 5 reasons to come work at WUR.

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.

Apply now

In your application, please refer to


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