Utrecht University has great ambitions for its teaching quality and study success rates. This also applies to its clear research profiles which are centred around four themes: Dynamics of Youth, Institutions, Life Sciences and Sustainability. Utrecht University plays a prominent role in our society and contributes to finding the answers to topical and future societal issues. Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

The Department of Earth Sciences is now looking for highly-motivated, high-potential applicant to fill a:

Postdoc position (2 years) in Artificial Intelligence & Geosciences

The postdoctoral researcher will work on the project 'Explaining Geometry from Deep Generative Networks - Uncovering missing dimensions from microstructures to river channel systems'.

Understanding and predicting the intricate geometrical patterns of nature is just as fascinating as it is challenging not only for geoscientists, but broadly across natural sciences. In this project, we aim at addressing two challenges. The first is to gain unprecedented 3D information and understanding of structures - from the scale of rock fabric to river channels - that control geologic processes and related macroscopic properties that are key to sustainable use of the surface and subsurface environments. The second is to gain access and understanding to the inner workings of deep generative neural networks, which have hitherto been impervious to human interpretation. We propose to develop new Explainable Variational Autoencoder (EVAE) networks with ground-breaking capabilities in terms of explainable data-driven representations and invertibility. We will apply these EVAEs to two cross-discipline, societally-relevant challenges: retrieving 3D microstructures from 2D-only images, and toward predicting and understanding the geometry of multi-channel river systems and their shredded records over geologic time.

Join a unique and diverse team, comprised of world-class experts in imaging science, geological microstructures and river system science from the Faculty of Geoscience at Utrecht University, with leading material scientists from Arizona State University. This 2-year position will be based within the Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University, but with close collaboration and travel opportunities to Arizona State University in the USA. Our project builds new data science capitalizing on large-scale experimental infrastructure investments, such as the EPOS-NL MINT and UU electron microscopy facilities, that include leading-edge electron and X-ray microscopes, and the Metronome tidal facility. As such, you will be exposed to state-of-the-art, diverse datasets key to geo and material sciences.


We seek a highly motivated postdoctoral researcher to lead the implementation of a new, explainable Deep Generative Neural Network and to apply it to exciting geoscientific challenges, including microstructure imaging and river system evolution. We are looking for someone with a strong quantitative, computational background, and with recently established, documented expertise in Deep Learning, particularly if that is in the context of Generative Networks such as Autoencoder architectures. It would be ideal if this professional has previous experience - or a strong interest - in geoscientific imaging and remote sensing techniques, as the project will be first based on microstructures from Micro-CT/FIB-SEM, and evolve to connect the abstraction/reconstruction of complex geometrical patterns from geologic materials to include spatial and time scales in river system evolution. You will be expected to publish our work in peer-reviewed journals and conferences, but also publish and maintain open-source software related to the project, with high-quality documentation and reproducible examples/benchmarks. Finally, you will act as the 'pillar' professional connecting our international team, across the disciplines of geoscience, high-end imaging, materials and computer sciences.

You are expected to:

  • hold a PhD degree in Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Data Science, Geophysics, Material Science, Mechanical Engineering or related field?
  • have documented expertise in implementing and applying Deep Learning architectures with open-source learning libraries (e.g., PyTorch, TensorFlow), supported by openly-available software examples (e.g., on GitHub)?
  • have experience with implementing and testing Deep Learning architectures in an HPC environment, e.g., simultaneously using multiple GPU processing units?
  • be proficient in the English language, and have demonstrable, high-standards of professional/scientific communication skills in oral, written and visual form.

Additionally, it would be a great asset if you:

  • have experience with Deep Learning applications in one of more of these contexts: 2D/3D image processing (in particular in microscopy and/or CT/micro-CT imaging), materials science, remote sensing, or geophysics?
  • have experience in implementing and testing Deep Generative Networks, e.g., Autoencoders, GANs?
  • have research experience beyond your PhD in either a postdoctoral or industrial/applied position, working on Deep Learning implementation and application.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a temporary full-time postdoctoral position for a period of two years in an international working environment. The gross salary - depending on previous qualifications and experience - ranges between €3,282 and €3,964 (scale 10.3 - 10.8 according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment.

Besides that, you will receive a holiday allowance of 8 % and a year-end bonus of 8.3 %. Utrecht University also has an appealing package of terms of employment external link, including the choice for a good balance between work and private (a good arrangement for leave, among other things), possibilities for development and an excellent pension scheme.

About the organisation:

The Utrecht Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface and atmosphere, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth. With a population of 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 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 tenured staff of over 45 scientists and more than 110 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. Our research programme spans four intertwined themes: Climate & Life, Earth interior, Earth materials, and Environmental Earth Sciences. We house or have access to a wide variety of world-class laboratories.

Additional information

Informal enquiries may be sent to Dr Ivan Pires de Vasconcelos (project leader, associate professor) via i.vasconcelos@uu.nl.

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. The application deadline is April 17th, 2022. Evaluations and interviews are planned shortly thereafter. We seek to initiate the position per June 1st, 2022, or as soon as possible thereafter.

Note that for candidates that require visa / working permits for the Netherlands, the processing time between selection and starting date is usually at least four months.

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

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posted: 28 January 2022     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.