PHD in Bioengineering - EMG-based control of lower limb prosthetic systems - [ PhD ]

Workplace: Genova, IIT
Added on: 15/02/2017 - Expires on: 06/03/2017

The research line Rehab Technologies - INAIL - IIT Lab (REHAB), led by its project Manager, dr Lorenzo De Michieli, is active at the IIT Central Research Laboratories in Morego (Genova), the main premises of Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT). REHAB is a new initiative created in December 2013 through an agreement between IIT and INAIL to develop and realize new prosthetic, orthotic and rehabilitation devices of high technological impact.

Following an agreement with the “Dipartimento di Elettronica, Informazione e Bioingegneria (DEIB)” of the “Politecnico di Milano” REHAB is offering 1 PhD  position at Politecnico di Milano Phd  school of Bioengineering on the specific project “EMG-based control of lower limb prosthetic systems”. The PhD call is online and available at the Politecnico website for the additional calls of the 32nd  cycle.

Theme description

State of the art lower limb prosthetic systems are either totally passive, semi-active, or active. Each of these technologies performs differently and allows for different use. Passive systems are the simplest and cost effective, however their motion can be controlled by proper motion imparted by the user and their usability is limited due to the nature of the core technology employed. Semi-active (so-called “electronic”) prostheses, on the other hand, typically employ inertial sensors, force sensors and encoder to estimate the configuration of the user during gait, and use this information to properly control the mechanical impedance of the joint. Similar to semi-active technology, active prostheses are feedback controlled, and make use of similar sensing technology to detect the configuration of the user. This information is then processed by the control algorithm and delivered to the actuation stage to provide mechanical power to the joint to execute a diverse range of tasks. Typical sensing techniques, however, deliver only limited information about the state of the user.

We believe that adding information on the stump’s muscular activation of the user, during either the swing or stance phase, can substantially enrich the quality of the available information and lead to novel control strategies to improve the functionality of the prosthesis and provide a better understanding on the correct utilization of the aid. For example, the control system could determine the correct muscular activation and timing, or self-adjust the parameters of the device based on the health/strength conditions of the user. These data, in combination with classical sensing techniques explained above, could further be used to prevent falls and address related safety issues: the scenarios are multiple and broad.

The aim of this project is to develop novel control systems for lower limb prostheses which can integrate, through e.g. sensor fusion algorithms, information on the muscular activation of the user by means of EMG sensing, to improve the functionality of the device and address safety issues.

The project will be carried out at the Advanced Robotics dept of IIT, in collaboration with the Rehab Technologies dept. of IIT.

The projects will be a technological challenge in which IIT and an internationally recognized clinical partner will share resources, competencies and motivation to achieve excellent results transferable to the medical field.


Ideal candidates should be highly motivated students, with a solid background in biomedical engineering and feedback control, have an outstanding academic record, besides excellent communication skills in English, as well as ability to interact effectively with members of the research team.


In order to apply for these positions it is mandatory to refer to the procedures required by the Politecnico di Milano. The official notice and the procedure for admissions is available at this link.

Interested applicants must follow the admission instructions and, additionally, can submit their CV electronically, outlining experience, qualifications, list of publications, a statement of research interests & plans and the names of at least two referees to Matteo Laffranchi (, Leonardo de Mattos ( and Elena de Momi (, submitting their CV and two possible contacts for a recommendation letter.

Until March 6th, 14:00 Italian time, candidates can apply online to the Politecnico di Milano PhD. (Application link)

Involved Research lines
Rehab Technologies - INAIL-IIT lab


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I numeri di IIT

L’Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) è una fondazione di diritto privato - cfr. determinazione Corte dei Conti 23/2015 “IIT è una fondazione da inquadrare fra gli organismi di diritto pubblico con la scelta di un modello di organizzazione di diritto privato per rispondere all’esigenza di assicurare procedure più snelle nella selezione non solo nell’ambito nazionale dei collaboratori, scienziati e ricercatori ”.

IIT è sotto la vigilanza del Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca e del Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze ed è stato istituito con la Legge 326/2003. La Fondazione ha l'obiettivo di promuovere l'eccellenza nella ricerca di base e in quella applicata e di favorire lo sviluppo del sistema economico nazionale. La costruzione dei laboratori iniziata nel 2006 si è conclusa nel 2009.

Lo staff complessivo di IIT conta circa 1440 persone. L’area scientifica è rappresentata da circa l’85% del personale. Il 45% dei ricercatori proviene dall’estero: di questi, il 29% è costituito da stranieri provenienti da oltre 50 Paesi e il 16% da italiani rientrati. Oggi il personale scientifico è composto da circa 60 principal investigators, circa 110 ricercatori e tecnologi di staff, circa 350 post doc, circa 500 studenti di dottorato e borsisti, circa 130 tecnici. Oltre 330 posti su 1400 creati su fondi esterni. Età media 34 anni. 41% donne / 59 % uomini.

Nel 2015 IIT ha ricevuto finanziamenti pubblici per circa 96 milioni di euro (80% del budget), conseguendo fondi esterni per 22 milioni di euro (20% budget) provenienti da 18 progetti europei17 finanziamenti da istituzioni nazionali e internazionali, circa 60 progetti industriali

La produzione di IIT ad oggi vanta circa 6990 pubblicazioni, oltre 130 finanziamenti Europei e 11 ERC, più di 350 domande di brevetto attive, oltre 12 start up costituite e altrettante in fase di lancio. Dal 2009 l’attività scientifica è stata ulteriormente rafforzata con la creazione di dieci centri di ricerca nel territorio nazionale (a Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) e internazionale (MIT ed Harvard negli USA) che, unitamente al Laboratorio Centrale di Genova, sviluppano i programmi di ricerca del piano scientifico 2015-2017.

IIT: the numbers

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a public research institute that adopts the organizational model of a private law foundation. IIT is overseen by Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca and Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze (the Italian Ministries of Education, Economy and Finance).  The Institute was set up according to Italian law 326/2003 with the objective of promoting excellence in basic and applied research andfostering Italy’s economic development. Construction of the Laboratories started in 2006 and finished in 2009.

IIT has an overall staff of about 1,440 people. The scientific staff covers about 85% of the total. Out of 45% of researchers coming from abroad 29% are foreigners coming from more than 50 countries and 16% are returned Italians. The scientific staff currently consists of approximately 60 Principal Investigators110 researchers and technologists350 post-docs and 500 PhD students and grant holders and 130 technicians. External funding has allowed the creation of more than 330 positions . The average age is 34 and the gender balance proportion  is 41% female against 59% male.

In 2015 IIT received 96 million euros in public funding (accounting for 80% of its budget) and obtained 22 million euros in external funding (accounting for 20% of its budget). External funding comes from 18 European Projects, other 17 national and international competitive projects and approximately 60 industrial projects.

So far IIT accounts for: about 6990 publications, more than 130 European grants and 11 ERC grants, more than 350 patents or patent applications12 up start-ups and as many  which are about to be launched. The Institute’s scientific activity has been further strengthened since 2009 with the establishment of 11 research nodes throughout Italy (Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) and abroad (MIT and Harvard University, USA), which, along with the Genoa-based Central Lab, implement the research programs included in the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan.