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Robotics and Systems Engineering


School - School of Computing, Science & Engineering

Subject area - Robotics

Start Date(s): September, January, May


Master by Research (MSc)
One year full-time
Two years part-time

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
One year full-time
Two years part-time

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Three years full-time
Five years part-time

In Brief:

  • Part-time study option
  • International students can apply

Subject Overview

Automation for the Food Industry Research

The food industry is very labour intensive and as a result is under threat from low wage economies. To allow companies to remain competitive they need to embrace automation. Led by Dr Steve Davis you will learn how many of the challenges found in the food industry cannot be addressed by conventional automation and how advanced systems and grippers are required.      

Cognition Robotics and Autonomous Systems

We use the term "cognitive robotics" to refer to robots with higher level cognitive functions that involve knowledge representation and reasoning.

You will work on robots with cognitive capabilities, which are key elements to autonomous systems, such as perception processing, attention allocation, anticipation, planning, reasoning about other agents, and perhaps reasoning about their own mental states. Several projects are currently undertaken in this area in collaboration with psychologists and neuroscientist from European institutions. This course is led by Prof. S. Nefti-Meziani and Dr T. Theodoridis.  

Biologically Inspired Robotics Research

Dr Steve Davis leads this research which covers all areas of biologically inspired robotics. Future robots will move away from operating solely in factories and will interact more closely with humans. This will require a more natural/biological-like human-machine interaction. You will work with new design approaches and learn how they will shape future robotic systems. You will learn how traditional actuators have many shortcomings and how compliance can greatly improve the safety of human robot interaction, and also how these technologies have application in healthcare and rehabilitation applications.  

End-effectors and robot hands

Also led by Dr Steve Davis, this research area is concerned with the development of advanced end effectors. You will learn how innovative approaches can be used to grasp difficult to handle products. This course will also teach you how multi-fingered dexterous end-effectors, similar to the human hand, can handle a broad range of products, and how these technologies can be used in tele-presence tasks.  

Swarm Intelligence and Multi-Agent Systems

This research theme, as led by Prof. S. Nefti Meziani and Dr T. Theodoridis, concerns the development of an Intelligent Collaborative Behaviour using Multi-Agent Systems/robots using novel swarm intelligent techniques. We have introduced the irrationality theory applied in path planning, obstacle avoidance and emergent behaviours, using the Khepera robots (K-Team) and the Webots simulator.  

You will study and implement intelligent algorithms, which can be used for simulating viscoelastic behaviours for particle systems. Other relevant areas you can be involved in are crowd behaviour modelling, space and security robotics, and swarm and cognitive agents.  

Uninhabited Autonomous Systems/Air Vehicles (UAS/UAV)

Prof. S. Nefti Meziani, Dr A. Jones, and Dr E. Chadwick lead the research into how uninhabited autonomous systems (UAS) cope with unscripted procedures when conducting a mission where commands are issued at high levels of abstraction. It is designed around human-centric needs with the ability to perform tasks in accordance with instructions which lack adequate 'terms of reference'. You will work in autonomous systems that involve humans-in-the-loop.

Entry Requirements

A minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a numerate subject such as Engineering, Science, Mathematics or Computer Science. You should be able to demonstrate the use of structured programming language such as C.

International students will require IELTS 6.0 (with no element below 5.5) or equivalent English Language Qualification.

Applicant Profile

You should have a first degree that provides a foundation in the areas of computer science or engineering. Candidates with a Bachelors and a Masters degree in one of the following areas will be preferred: robotics, mechatronics, automation and control, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Experience of experimental research involving statistical analyses of experimental results on the basis of measuring system performance is also preferable but is not essential.  

As a student embarking a postgraduate research degree will be assigned a supervisory team to help guide and mentor you throughout your time at the University. However, you are ultimately expected to take responsibility for managing your learning and will be expected to initiate discussions, ask for the help that you need, and be proactive in your approach to study.  

All students will be required to attend an interview.

International Students - Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

International Students are required by the Home Office and/or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate before they begin studying their course. You may need to obtain an ATAS Certificate before you come to the UK in order for you to comply with Home Office regulations. Please refer to your offer conditions.

You can find out if your programme requires an ATAS by checking the FCO website at with your JACS code which will be on your offer letter should you choose to make an application. If you cannot find it please contact International Conversion team at If you have any queries relating directly to ATAS please contact the ATAS team on

You can apply for your ATAS Certificate via this link:

Current Student Research

Research Topics


Bassim El-achkar  

Topic: Pattern recognition using PSO  

Status: Graduated

Ahmed Al-Dulaimy  

Topic: Swarm intelligence and Risk management in Swarm robotics  

Status: Graduated  

May Bunny  

Topic: Multi-criteria optimisation using Prospect theory  

Status: Graduated  

Umar Manzoor  

Topic: Agent Based Network Resource Monitoring and Management System  

Status: Graduated  

S Baresi  

Topic: Research topic: Semantic Based Indexing Technique for Optimisation and     

Intelligent Document Representation  

Status: Graduated  

Awatef El Aaimi  

Topic: A New Methodology for Designing A Multilingual Bio-Ontology: An Application  

to Arabic/English Bio-Information Retrieval  

Status: Graduated  

Abulgasem Elmabruk  

Topic: A Haptic Surgical Simulator For Cataract Eye Surgery Using Circular Wave Model.  

Status: Graduated  

William Hinojosa  

Topic: Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning for Probabilistic Fuzzy Behaviour Creators.  

Status: Graduated  

Sam Rashida  

Topic:  A Novel, Flexible, Multi-Functional Handling Device Based using Bernoulli Principle  

Status: Graduated  

Iaonnis Sarakoglou  

Topic: Interoperable Portable Haptic Interfaces for High Fidelity Tactile Feedback in      Immersive Virtual Environments.  

Status: Graduated  

Mohd Nadhir Ab Wahab  

Project: Automated Strategy Planning: Implication of Swarm Intelligence for Mobile Robots.  

Status: 1st year PhD Student  

John Pinder  

Project: Dynamic Generation of Collaborative Strategies for Heterogeneous Robots using Multi-Objective Reinforcement Learning.  

Status: 1st year PhD Student  

Wajdi Rasheed Ismaeel Al-Rikabi

Project: Autonomous vehicle control using digital type-2 fuzzy controller in cloud computing.  

Status: 1st year PhD Student  

Sean Chase Mandrake

Project: Augmenting Human-Machine Interaction using variable context immersive visualisation.  

Status: 1st year PhD Student  

Chukudi Uchechuku Wilson

Project: The Design of a Wearable Exoskeleton for Upper Limb Power Assist and Rehabilitation.  

Status: 2nd year PhD Student    

Research Fellows


Dr Adham Atyabi

Adham Atyabi received his BSc in Computer Engineering from Azad University of Mashhad-Iran in 2002. His BSc thesis title was “Imitating human speech”. He received his MSc by research from the faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology at Multimedia University of Malaysia in 2009. His MSc thesis title was “Navigating agents in uncertain environment using Particle Swarm Optimisation”. He recently received his PhD from Flinders University of South Australia. His PhD thesis title was “Evolutionary Optimisation of Brain Computer Interfaces: Doing More with Less”. In the course of his PhD study, he was PhD Student representative of Flinders at the Australian Computer Society (ACS) in 2010–2011 and University Relation Manager of Young IT SA in 2011. He was also a member of MAGICIAN team (one of the top 5 teams in the world in the MAGIC2010 competition) in Flinders University in 2009–2010. Currently, he is a Research Assistant working under Prof Samia Nefti-Meziani’s supervision on GAMMA PROGRAMME at The University of Salford. His research interests include Swarm Robotics, Cognitive Robotics, Brain Computer Interfacing, Knowledge Transfer, Machine Learning, and Evolutionary Optimisation.   

GTA Student Profiles

The GTA scheme is a fantastic opportunity for early career researchers or anyone with an interest in higher education teaching. I think of the GTA scheme as an apprenticeship in lecturing, and with the mentoring and supervision received, provides a vital experience for anyone with a drive to be involved in teaching at university.  

The GTA scheme is run similarly to a studentship in which your PhD tuition fees are covered and you receive a bursary in return for a teaching responsibility equating to 6 hours per week. This responsibility does however factor in the preparation time, so in real terms it is possible that contact time may be much less.  My teaching is centred on conducting seminars and lectures and supervising various lab based projects at undergraduate level within sport psychology modules, as well as light administration duties.

Training and Skills

All postgraduate research students are expected to attend the College’s research methods seminars during their first year of study, covering subjects such as conducting a literature review, methods of data collection, research governance and ethics, and analysis, presentation, interpretation and rigour in qualitative research.  

In addition, the University offers all postgraduate research students an extensive range of free training activities to help you develop your research and transferable skills. The Salford Postgraduate Research Training Programme has been designed to equip you as researchers both for your university studies, and for your future careers, whether in academia, elsewhere in the public sector, or in industry and the private sector.

Assessment Links

As a postgraduate research student at the University of Salford, you are required to meet a number of milestones in order to re-register for each year of study. These progression points are an important aid for both you and your supervisory team and it is essential that you complete them on time.  

Learning Agreement: completed by you and your supervisor collaboratively in the first 3 months of your research program, the Learning Agreement encourages both of you to develop a thorough and consistent understanding of your individual and shared roles and responsibilities in your research partnership.  

Annual Progress Report: this report is completed by your supervisor at the end of each year of study, and reports on your achievements in the past year, the likelihood that you will submit on time, confirmation of the Learning Agreement and relevant training undertaken.  

Self Evaluation Report: completed by you at the end of each year of study this report asks you to comment on your academic progress, supervisory arrangements, research environment, research training, and relevant training undertaken.  

Interim Assessment: this is an assessment of your progress by a panel. It takes place towards the end of your first year, and is designed to ensure you have reached a threshold of academic performance, by assessing your general progress. The assessment comprises a written report, presentation and oral examination by a Panel. You must successfully complete it in order to register for your second year.  

Internal Evaluation: taking place towards the end of the second year, successful completion of this evaluation is required in order to continue onto your third year of study. You will be expected to show strong progress in your PhD study reflected in the submission of a substantial piece of work, generally at least 4 chapters of your thesis.

Research Profile

Research Excellence

The centre's activities originated in 1987 when The University of Salford was chosen as the site of the United Kingdom's National Advanced Robotics Research Centre. Since then Robotics has formed a major strategic direction within Engineering in the University and Salford, where Researchers have been at the forefront of strategic national developments initiated by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and international developments within the E.U.  

The centre houses a multidisciplinary group lead by Prof Samia Nefti-Meziani with interests in autonomous systems and robotics and their constituent technologies. The group has strong national and international links with both industry and other research institutes. The core group of researchers in the laboratory includes over a dozen graduate students and three senior academic research members.  

The group has a long history of attracting research funding including the EU FP7 projects Novel Q and RobotCub. It has also received funding in both the food and aerospace sectors and has recently been awarded the national GAMMA project targeted at autonomous systems for the aerospace sector. Due to its international reputation for robotics research the group has been awarded €4M by the EU ITN Marie Curie Project to form an Initial Training Network which will train the future leaders in the field of robotics.

Staff Profiles

Professor Samia Nefti-Meziani

Samia Nefti-Meziani has extensive leadership experience as Head of the Autonomous Systems & Advanced Robotics research centre and as former Director of the doctoral school of the 6* IRIS Research Institute (2005-08). Responsible for 130 doctoral students and all postgraduate research provision across different departments, she nurtured a strong research culture and environment, which received the highest award for research environment (4*) in the 2008 (RAE). She has successfully supervised and graduated more than 20 PhD students and has extensive experience running very successful industrial sponsored robotics PG programmes at national and international level. Her research interests concern the development of cognitive models for robotics/agents. She has published and edited extensively in the above areas which appeared in leading academic journals and books. She has attracted more than £4M funding in the last three years. She is the Vice Chairman of IEEE Robotics and Automation UK & RI, and is an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Fuzzy Systems, as well as a chartered Member of BCS, and Member of the advisory board of the National EPSRC centre in Innovative Manufacturing for Intelligent Automation.  

Dr Steve Davis

Dr Steve Davis graduated from the University of Salford with a degree in Robotic and Electronic Engineering in 1998, and an MSc in Advanced Robotics in 2000. He worked as a Research Fellow in the Centre for Robotics and Automation at Salford for eight years during which time he gained his PhD. In 2008 he moved to become a team leader in the Advanced Robotics dept. at the Italian Institute of Technology. Steve returned to Salford in 2012 as a Lecturer in Manufacturing, Automation and Robotics.

Steve has authored over 30 academic papers as well as a book chapter. He also has one patent based on his research work. In 2004 Steve secured £96,000 of funding to explore a new form of actuator and with Prof. Nefti-Meziani has recently been awarded £3.5m from the EU FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network Fund. He has undertaken both academic and commercial research and his research interests include actuators, biomimetic systems, humanoid robots, end effectors and grippers, robot hands and automation for the food industry. Steve has been on the program committee of a number of international conferences and is guest editor for the journal Actuators.  

Dr Theo Theodoridis Theo Theodoridis received the B.E. degree in automation engineering from the Technological Educational Institute of Piraeus, Greece, the M.Sc. degree in embedded systems and robotics, and the Ph.D. degree in intelligent crime-recognition robots from the University of Essex, U.K. He worked as a full time postdoctoral senior research officer (EPSRC grant), at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), focusing on multimodal human-robot interfaces and visual guidance, as well as pattern recognition control methods. Currently he is working as a lecturer in robotics and embedded systems in the School of Computing Science and Engineering at the University of Salford. He is a reviewer and author of several leading learning journals in the field. His research interests include AI robotics related to evolutionary algorithms, quantum computation, computer vision, fuzzy and probabilistic reasoning, behaviour-based and intelligent control, and AI gaming.  

Dr Thurai Rahulan

Thurai Rahulan graduated with First Class Honours in Mechanical Engineering Science in 1979 and obtained his PhD in Active Vibration Control in 1984 from the University of Salford. His first job involved the implementation of new technologies on various aircraft on projects funded by the British Ministry of Defence which in turn led to a few years working in industry on intelligent road vehicle suspension systems at Jaguar Cars Limited in Coventry. He returned to The University of Salford in 1990 and is currently a Senior Lecturer in aeroelasticity, flight dynamics and aircraft design. Dr Rahulan has published and refereed many scientific papers and has delivered a number of lectures organised by learned societies for the benefit of the public. As well as his role at the University Dr Rahulan is serving a second term on the Council of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a third term as the Chairman of the Association of Aerospace Universities. This is in addition to liaising with industry and the media on aerospace matters.


Career Prospects

Graduates are expected to find employment in a range of industries. Robotics and Embedded Systems are continuously developing topics that present many career opportunities in areas such as embedded systems design, robotic design, control systems design and integration, engineering management and research.

Students leaving the School with a postgraduate research degree are well placed to lead and manage research and development activities in a number of areas. Globally, a postgraduate research qualification is usually a prerequisite for an academic career and several of our alumni are now senior academics.

Further study

Many of our students go on to further study in the School in areas which are very closely linked with this course, such as the Control & Intelligent Systems Research Centre and the Robotics & Autonomous Systems Research Centre.  

Previous students have taken their research expertise and knowledge into academic positions. We encourage the maintenance of links between graduating research students and their host research group and supervisor. This means the University can become part of the developing professional network that students take forward into their future careers.

Links with Industry

The research groups have strong links with industry in all areas of robotics and systems engineering. These include large multinationals such as Airbus, BAE, Festo and ABB, to name just a few, through to small SMEs working in related fields. The group also has links with public sector organisations such as the NHS, fire and police service. The main benefit of these links for students is the ability to work on real world problems potentially leading to their research being adopted in by industry. The links also provide students with the opportunity to gain experience of working with industry and meeting its needs.


Industrial Robotics Laboratory

The industrial robotics laboratory contains many of the automation technologies found within industry including sensors, actuators and control systems. The laboratory also contains numerous industrial robots including the ABB Flexpicker, 6 and 7 DOF articulated arms, a human scale CRS robot and a SCARA. The laboratory also houses a number of conveyor systems. This facility is used primarily for testing of industrial relevant projects.  

Advanced Robotics and Embedded Systems Laboratory

This laboratory includes facilities for embedded systems development as well as a number of mobile robots. These platforms include wheeled and legged locomotion and aerial vehicles. There are also a number of miniature humanoid robots in the laboratory which are used to develop algorithms and experiment with cognition. It is also the main area used for development in actuators, sensors, robot manipulators and end effectors.