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.

PhD position on probabilistic subsidence predictions for building damage (4 years)

The Department of Earth Sciences is now looking for a highly-motivated, high-potential applicant to fill a PhD position on human-induced subsidence and building damage. The PhD research will be conducted in collaboration with Padova University and research institute TNO (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research).

Subsidence-induced damage to the built environment is a worldwide issue, especially in low-lying urbanized coastal zones worldwide such as Venice (Italy) and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands alone, estimated costs of subsidence on buildings and infrastructure are in the order of tens of billions in the coming decades. The built environment can be damaged by subsidence induced by subsurface activities ranging from groundwater level management to deep resource extraction. TNO has set-up an Early Research Programme (ERP) "Subsidence and Building Damage", of which this PhD will be part of. In this programme, the know-how necessary to develop a model chain for predicting subsidence-induced damage to the built environment will be developed. The key scientific breakthrough is to establish causal relationships between different sources of subsidence and resulting damage to the built environment. To reach this objective, models (physics-based and machine learning-based) and observations (satellite remote sensing and in-situ measurements) will be combined throughout data assimilation schemes.

The research team includes Prof Jan-Diederik van Wees (TNO, UU), Prof Pietro Teatini (University of Padova), Dr Ylona van Dinther (UU), Dr Thibault Candela (TNO), and Dr Claudia Zoccarato (University of Padova). The research will mainly be performed at Utrecht University and TNO, but extended stays at University of Padova are included in the project planning.

Up to 10% of the candidate's time will be dedicated to assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Department of Earth Sciences at UU. A personalised training programme will be set up, mutually agreed on recruitment, which will reflect the candidate's training needs and career objectives.


The successful candidate should have a Master's degree (or equivalent) in Earth Sciences, Physics, or Engineering with demonstrable affinity with geophysical or sub-surface processes. Experience with one or more of the following topics would be an advantage: analytical (theoretical) skills, (modelling of) subsidence, remote sensing. A broad interest in subsidence, and the willingness and capacity to interact with the team members, are essential. The candidate should be proficient in English and have excellent scientific writing and presenting skills. The candidate is an independent thinker, enthusiastic team player and has good communication skills.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment.

Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University. Facilities for childcare and sports are available on campus.

About the organisation:

Utrecht University's Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth's core to its surface, including man's spatial and material utilisation of the Earth - always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. 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.

About Utrecht:

Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with a population of nearly 360,000 and forms a hub in the middle of the country. Its historic city centre and its modern central station can easily be reached from the Utrecht Science Park by public transport or by a 15-minute bicycle ride. Utrecht boasts beautiful canals with extraordinary wharf cellars housing cafés and terraces by the water, as well as a broad variety of shops and boutiques.

Additional information:

For informal questions, please contact Prof. Jan Diederik van Wees (UU, TNO) via jan_diederik.vanwees@tno.nl or Thibault Candela (TNO) via thibault.candela@tno.nl.

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. The application deadline is February 20th, 2023. Evaluations and interviews are planned soon thereafter, such that the position can start as soon as possible.

However, note that international candidates that need a visa/work permit for the Netherlands require at least four months processing time after selection and acceptance.

Finding appropriate housing in or near Utrecht is your own responsibility, but our International Service Desk may be able to advise you therewith. In case of general questions about working and living in The Netherlands, please consult the Dutch Mobility Portal.

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

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posted: 23 December 2022     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.