PhD student openings:

3D Odor Source Localization and Distribution Mapping Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The Distributed Intelligent Systems and Algorithms Laboratory (DISAL) is currently looking for a PhD student for a project in Odor Source Localization (OSL) and Odor Distribution Mapping (ODM) using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

With the advances in robotics, embedded systems, and chemical sensor research in the last two decades, robotic olfaction has become an active research area. Because of the rapid progress in small-scale aerial vehicles and their competitive advantages in terms of mobility, flying robotic platforms offer new opportunities to tackle challenges in this area. The goal of this project is therefore to extend the current efforts of DISAL in robotic olfaction by developing single- and multi-robot aerial systems robust enough to be suitable for deployment in complex indoor and outdoor scenarios. To robustly carry out OSL and ODM missions without losing flying maneuverability, we intend to leverage rotary wing vehicles (e.g., quadrotors) customized with appropriate sensing and navigation modules. The design and integration of such mechatronic modules under severe volume and mass constraints will be part of the doctoral effort and carried out in collaboration with senior DISAL staff.

DISAL has been one of the pioneering laboratories worldwide in this area. In particular, we have already conducted a significant amount of research in the context of both single- and multi-robot systems, mainly for distributed odor source localization, systematically comparing the performance of different types of control algorithms (e.g., bio-inspired, probabilistic, formation-based) under simplified environmental conditions in a wind tunnel. We therefore have all the required state-of-the-art facilities, scientific background, and research track record to achieve high impact through this project.

A MSc in engineering (e.g., mechatronics, robotics, electrical, mechanical, computer, or environmental) or equivalent degree with good knowledge of embedded system programming and mechatronic design, as well as solid theoretical foundations in probabilistic frameworks (e.g., modeling, algorithms) are required. Evidence of autonomous, creative, project-based work as well as experiences within international and interdisciplinary environments are additional assets.

Starting date: as soon as possible.

Application procedure: candidates interested by the opening above should apply first to an EPFL doctoral program DISAL is associated with and, in a second step, send a brief e-mail to Prof. Martinoli, possibly with a CV attached, mentioning their interest in the project as well as the program they have applied to (such step can be done before an official notification of admissibility to a given program). While DISAL is currently associated to four doctoral programs at EPFL, the most suitable program for the opening described above is the Doctoral Program in Robotics, Control, and Intelligent Systems (EDRS). The current annual application deadlines for EDRS are: Jan 15, April 30, and Sep 15.

Note that, in order to join DISAL, priority will be given to those applicants who spent a few months in the form of internship or student project within the laboratory before enrolling as PhD student. In absence of such a priori project-based experience at the time of the application, a 3-month pre-doctoral internship aligned with the topic of the doctoral opening can be organized before the actual enrollment as PhD student.

Postdoc openings:

All our recent postdoc openings have been filled.


  • For doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows: please contact directly Prof. Martinoli.
  • For EPFL bachelor or master students or international students involved in an international exchange program with EPFL: we have from time to time some funding for internships during the summer, spring break, and some research/development part-time jobs during the semesters. Priority will be given to students who have done or have committed to do a semester/master project with us but depending on funding/supervision availability, further students are welcome.
  • For national/international bachelor and master students: no funding is currently provided by our institution for hosting undergraduate students coming from other institutions at national or international level. Currently, only limited laboratory funding for lodging and traveling is available for such internships and therefore applicants should possibly bring their own financial support with them. In order to achieve an adequate balance between instructional investment and results produced, we will give preference to longer internships (3-6) months. In case of research interest matching, we are also happy to back up initiatives for raising funds with appropriate letters of support. Only in such case, contact directly Prof. Martinoli explicitly mentioning you are willing to do an internship and you bring your own funding partially or completely sponsoring your internship. Prof. Martinoli will only respond directly to such requests. A notable exception is represented by Indian students because of the recent Indo-Swiss research collaboration agreement. Indian students without specific sponsorship should therefore directly contact Dr. Pramod Rastogi (pramod.rastogi at epfl.ch). Dr. Rastogi is the coordinator for the Swiss-Indian scientific collaboration and is gathering and classifying applications; in case we will have some openings for Indian students, we will contact directly Dr. Rastogi and he will provide us an appropriate candidate list.