KU Leuven


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KU Leuven is an autonomous university. It was founded in 1425. It was born of and has grown within the Catholic tradition.

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KU Leuven has a full-time vacancy for academic staff (professor) in Mechanical Engineering at 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, Engineering & 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 modeling 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 optimize 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 maximize 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 levels of haptic fidelity that are needed for re-creating convincing virtual counterparts of sophisticated scenarios such as in the medical field. The Smart Instrumentation research group is particularly interested to 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 organisations, 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.

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Data is taking in an increasingly important role in our society. Examples are the digital transformation, the breakthrough of artificial intelligence or the argument for evidence-based medicine. Quantitative data can help accelerate mechanical designs or 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 researched yet, but 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.


You provide high-quality education in the Bachelor and/or Master program of the KU Leuven Faculty of Engineering Technology, with a clear commitment to the quality of the program as a whole. You also contribute to the pedagogical project of the faculty/university through the supervision of master's theses and as supervisor of PhD candidates.

Your teaching duties may include generic engineering courses in the first/second stage of the Bachelor of Engineering Technology program as well as courses in the Electromechanical Engineering specialisation of the Bachelor/Master of Engineering Technology program (e.g., automation, data acquisition, information management, artificial intelligence). You have an outspoken interest in next-generation engineering education and are willing to evolve throughout your career towards substantial educational engagements.

You develop your teaching in accordance with the vision of KU Leuven on activating, blended and research-based education and make use of the possibilities for educational professionalization offered by the faculty and the university.


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.


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 and/or by your research experience with industry. International and industrial experience are considered advantageous. You have a vision on research and the possible synergy and compatibility with ongoing research on campus and at the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

You have a vision on providing quality academic education in your field. Teaching experience is a plus. 

You have organisational skills and a collegial attitude. You also have leadership skills in a university or industrial context.

A good knowledge of English is a prerequisite. KU Leuven offers courses in academic English.

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 that should allow you to participate in board meetings and learn Dutch up to a level required for a permanent appointment. 

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


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 conducts both fundamental and applied scientific research. Our university has a strong inter- and multidisciplinary orientation and strives for international excellence. To this end, it actively cooperates with its research partners at home and abroad. She offers her students an academic education based on high-level scientific research.

Depending on your file and qualifications, you will be appointed or appointed to one of the grades of the independent academic staff: lecturer, senior lecturer, professor or full professor. Junior researchers are in principle appointed as tenure track teachers for a period of 5 years; after that, and upon a positive evaluation, they are permanently appointed (or tenured). At this point they will move on to the next level of 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 the KU Leuven multi-campus Faculty of Industrial Engineering with a focus on technological and industry-oriented training and research. Leuven is located in the centre of Belgium, 30 minutes from Brussels, the capital of the European Union, and less than two 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 is well set to welcome foreign professors and their family and provides practical support with regard to immigration & administration, housing, childcare, learning Dutch, partner career coaching, … 

To facilitate scientific onboarding and accelerate research in the first phase a starting grant of 100.000 euro is offered to new professors without substantial other funding, appointed for at least 50%.


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, +32-16-322479) 

* Prof. dr. ir. Wim Dewulf, campus chair Group T Leuven Campus (wim.dewulf@kuleuven.be)

You can submit your application until xx , only through our online application system. If you have problems submitting your application online, please contact solliciteren@kuleuven.be. 

Please add the following sections in English to your application (more information can be found on the jobsite KU Leuven):

- a biosketch in which you demonstrate your added value as academic for the core tasks of research, education and services in your past career and for your future activities (maximum 2 pages) ;
- a report listing your five most important publications or realisations;

- an extensive CV (including a complete list of publications and, if necessary, a portfolio of your architectural projects);

- a research plan focusing on the development of your research line and of the establishment of your research team with an outlook to collaborations with fellow researchers within the department (maximum 4 pages);

- your vision on academic education and its organisation (maximum 2 pages);

- your contribution to service activities (internal representation through membership in boards and administrative bodies, contributions to society in education and/or research, outreach and science communication) (maximum 1 page);

- your vision on leadership (maximum 1 page).

KU Leuven pursues an equal opportunities and diversity policy. It explicitly encourages candidates from groups that are currently underrepresented in the university to apply.

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

You can apply for this job no later than February 22, 2022 via the  online 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.

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Oude Markt 13 Leuven, Belgium
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