More on the ATLAS project

*** This is a guest post by Gianni Borghesan and the ATLAS team ***
ATLAS is a Marie Curie European Joint Doctorate school (GA 813782) that targets the training of experts in intraluminal robotic surgery a particularly appealing and challenging branch of robotic surgery.
If you share this interest we are currently looking for highly motivated PhD candidates !
ATLAS stands for “AuTonomous intraLuminAl Surgery”. Intraluminal navigation, a particularly challenging branch that reappears in many minimal invasive surgical (MIS) interventions involves steering flexible instruments through fragile lumens or vessels. Such interventions are characterized by poor visual conditions, limited dexterity of available instruments. Control is difficult due to the presence of friction, slack and compliancy. Surgeons indicated to have concerns such as tissue damage, bleeding or rupture. Furthermore some degree of trial-and-error in maneuvering instruments is unavoidable. ATLAS aims to mitigate the mental load of surgeons by endowing partial autonomy when executing these tasks.

The project pivots on two main pillars:
1) the research activities of 15 early-stage researchers – PhD candidates will pursue a double doctoral programme, at two of the universities that are part of the consortium, plus internship in companies or research centers.
The ESRs will engage in one or more of the following research objectives,
-    advances in actuation technologies for compliant mechanisms,
-    advances in sensing technologies, proprioceptive (shape and force) and exteroceptive (vision and absolute positioning),
-    advances in modeling – estimation of the lumen geometry and understanding of the surgical workflow,
-    distributed control, compatible with perception of the fragile environment and with the surgeon’s intentions.

2) the organization of targeted course and summer-schools that will allow to provide the ESRs with state-of-the-art knowledge in this domain, at the same time establish a permanent educational network that satisfies the need of highly proficient engineers in the field of surgical robotics. The skills that are identified are:
- understanding clinical needs, Operating Room (OR) constraints and surgical workflow
- understanding the surgical instrument actuation technology, approaching it in an integrated, mechatronic fashion,
- understanding intra-operative sensing technologies, in order to overcome technical limits,
- understanding intra-operative modelling, to be able to face in effective way common procedures as registration
- understanding the practical aspects in soft- and hardware integration, thus avoiding that it becomes a major obstacle when moving to higher TRL levels.

The beneficiaries, where the ESRs will be hosted, are
  • KU Leuven (Belgium, Coordinator)
  • Universit√† Degli Studi Di Verona (Italy)
  • Politecnico Di Milano (Italy)
  • Universit√© De Strasbourg (France)
  • Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna (Italy)
  • Techische Universiteit Delft (The Netherlands)
  • Universitat Polit√®cnica De Catalunya (Spain)


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