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 ice sheet and glacial flow modelling (4 years)

The Department of Earth Science at Utrecht University, invites applications from highly-motivated candidates for a PhD position on Improving ice sheet and glacial flow models for reducing uncertainty in sea-level rise projections. This project is a research collaboration between the Department of Earth Sciences and the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (IMAU) at Utrecht University.

Modern deformation experiments and recent microstructural observations from boreholes demonstrate that ice constitutive behaviour is sensitive to grain size. However, this parameter is typically not considered in rheological models of ice dynamics, where this is simplified to an empirical non-linear relation between stress and strain rate. As a result, ice deformation near bedrock is poorly constrained and fluctuations in deformation rate resulting from grain size differences are not represented. Currently, ice dynamics are the largest source of uncertainty in long-term sea-level rise projections. The role of this PhD student is to improve ice sheet and glacial flow models by calibrating and implementing constitutive equations that are rooted in modern, quantitative insights into ice microphysics. The model will be used to quantify the effects of the revised flow parameters on the projected evolution of ice sheets (e.g., Greenland) and to explore implications for sea level rise.

The position is funded by the Faculty of Geosciences and aligns with Utrecht University's Strategic Theme "Pathways to Sustainability". Funding includes research, travel, and publication expenses, to support student training. The successful candidate will be co-supervised by Alissa Kotowski (Department of Earth Sciences) and Peter Kuipers Munneke (IMAU). The project team includes local and international collaborators Martyn Drury (UU, promotor), Roderik van de Wal (IMAU, promotor), Hans de Bresser (UU), Willem Jan van de Berg (IMAU), Cedric Thieulot (UU), and Dorthe Dahl-Jensen (Univ. Copenhagen).

A personalised training programme will be set up, reflecting your training needs and career objectives. About 20% of your time will be dedicated to this training component, which includes training on the job in assisting in the BSc and MSc teaching programmes of the Earth Sciences department at Utrecht University. We also expect the willingness to dedicate part of the work time to public engagement related to the project, such as public talks or writing for non-specialist audience. Training and support in public engagement is available at Utrecht University.


Required qualifications:

  1. You must hold a Master's degree in Geophysics, Physics, Earth Sciences, Geology or an equivalent degree. PhD recipients cannot be considered.
  2. You must have documented skills and independent experience with programming applied to numerical flow models.
  3. You must have a keen interest in pursuing geological/geophysical problems.
  4. You must have excellent written and spoken English skills and be highly motivated to work in an international team.

Desired qualifications:

  1. You have experience with numerical modelling of non-linear systems and fluid rheology/dynamics
  2. You have experience with independent use of multiple programming languages such as Python or Fortran.
  3. You can demonstrate familiarity with quantitative methods and concepts in micro-physics, materials science, and material rheology.

Terms of employment:

You will be offered a temporary position 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. Filling the position 0.8 FTE is optional.

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 about 50 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 Dr Alissa Kotowski (project leader) via a.j.kotowski@uu.nl.

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link and the guidelines mentioned there. The application deadline is March 24th, 2023. Evaluations and online interviews are planned in the first half (10-14) of April. The intended starting date is September 1, 2023.

Please note that international candidates that need a visa/work permit for the Netherlands require at least four months processing time after selection and acceptance. This will be arranged with help of the International Service Desk (ISD) of our university. Finding appropriate housing in or near Utrecht is your own responsibility, but the ISD 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: 22 February 2023     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.