PhD position on 'Models and experiments to decipher induced seismicity' (4 yrs)

Job description:

The Department of Earth Sciences currently seeks a highly-motivated, high-potential applicant for a PhD position to work within the research project Understanding induced fault slip through numerical models and laboratory experiments that is a work package of the project InFocus: An Integrated Approach to Estimating Fault Slip Occurrence, awarded to Dr F.V. Vossepoel (TUD), Dr Y. van Dinther (UU) and Dr A. Niemeijer (UU). Following successful synthetic tests, InFocus aims to evaluate whether Bayesian data assimilation can reliably constrain and forecast fault slip in laboratory experiments. The position is part of the DeepNL programme funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), which consists of 8 projects and aims to investigate the physical mechanisms behind the induced seismicity in the subsurface, e.g. in the gas reservoir in the province of Groningen (The Netherlands).

The PhD candidate will perform numerical simulations to better understand physical mechanisms governing induced seismicity due to fluid extraction. These mechanisms include differential compaction, stress transfer due to seismic and aseismic fault slip and fluid diffusion in a poro-elastically coupled medium. The aim is to identify key physical variables and parameters needed to reproduce laboratory experiments and observed seismicity in the Groningen gas field. The forward model resolves the dynamics governing seismic and aseismic fault slip and thermo-mechanical deformation of the solid and fluid in a porous visco-elasto-plastic medium. This next generation, 2D and 3D seismo-thermo-mechanical (STM) model has been largely developed by Casper Pranger at ETH Zürich and is extended to relevant settings by the Postdoctoral Researcher who will also be appointed in this project. The results will feed into, and will be calibrated by, Bayesian data assimilation experiments performed by a second PhD candidate in this project.

You will design and perform laboratory experiments to better understand induced fault slip and evaluate whether slip can be reliably forecasted by Bayesian data assimilation. Data assimilation combines prior physical knowledge and observations to probabilistically forecast laboratory seismicity. This assessment is facilitated by dense instrumentation with acoustic emission and strain sensors, which will help to determine what measurements are needed to do so.

The research team members include Dr. Y. van Dinther (main supervisor), Dr. A. Niemeijer (co-supervisor) and Prof. L. Matenco (promotor) at the Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University. The research will be performed at Utrecht University, but in close collaboration with TU Delft, KNMI/Seismology dept., and ETH Zurich. The PhD candidate will be expected to assist in the teaching programmes of the Department of Earth Sciences for a limited amount of time (~10%).


The successful candidate should be ambitious and have an MSc (or equivalent) in Earth Sciences, Physics or Engineering. Candidates with a background in fault and fluid mechanics, rock physics, geophysics and/or (geo)mechanical and fluid flow modeling are especially encouraged to apply. Experience in laboratory experiments and/or numerical modelling is a distinct advantage. You are able to work and think independently and collaborate with the project team, algorithm developers, and laboratory technicians. You possess excellent writing and verbal communication skills in English.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a full-time PhD position, initially for one year. Depending on a satisfactory performance this may be extended to a maximum period of four years, resulting in a doctorate within this period.

Employment conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of the Dutch Universities. The gross monthly salary starts at € 2,325 in the first year and increases to € 2,972 in the fourth year. The salary is supplemented by a holiday allowance of 8% of annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3% of annual salary per year. We offer a pension scheme, (partly paid) parental leave, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model).

Facilities for sports and child care are available on our main campus (where the Department of Earth Sciences is situated), which is located only 15 minutes away from the historical city centre of Utrecht.

About the organisation:

The Utrecht Faculty of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. With a population of 2600 students (BSc and MSc) and 600 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, Sustainable Development, and Human Geography & Spatial Planning.

The Department of Earth Sciences conducts teaching and research across the full range of the solid Earth and environmental Earth sciences, with activities in almost all areas of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, biogeology and hydrogeology. The department hosts a highly international group of more than 100 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers and houses a wide variety of world-class laboratories, including the new solid Earth cluster Earth Simulation Laboratory. In addition, the department offers an extensive high-end computing infrastructure.

Additional information:

Informal enquiries may be sent to Dr Ylona van Dinther (, Dr André Niemeijer (, or Dr Ir Femke Vossepoel ( We recommend to read the project's website.

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. Applications will be accepted until May 15, 2019. Evaluations and interviews are planned soon thereafter. The intended starting date is September 1, 2019, or as soon as possible thereafter.

Online screening may be part of the selection. Commercial response to this ad is not appreciated.

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posted: 01 April 2019     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.