PhD positions in Gravitational Waves instrumentation

PhD positions in Gravitational Waves instrumentation

Published Deadline Location
12 Jun 31 Jul Amsterdam

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Job description

The VU Amsterdam and Nikhef have two vacancies for  PhD positions in Gravitational Waves instrumentation
Nikhef is the Dutch national institute for subatomic physics, where approximately 175 physicists and 75 technical staff members work together in an open and international scientific environment, performing theoretical and experimental research in the fields of particle and astroparticle physics, including gravitational-wave observation. Nikhef’s research collaborations include the VIRGO interferometer in Pisa; the ATLAS, LHCb and ALICE experiments at CERN; the KM3NeT neutrino telescope in the Mediterranean; the XENONnT dark matter experiment in Gran Sasso; and the Pierre Auger cosmic ray observatory in Argentina.

Gravitational waves
The gravitational-waves research team at Nikhef consists of about 40 researchers distributed equally among research staff and junior scientists (postdocs and PhD students). The group’s activities span a wide range of subjects. We contribute to the Virgo observatory near Pisa by analysing data and making inferences about the astronomical sources, and by participating in upgrades and on-site commissioning to improve the detector’s sensitivity. Looking to the future, we have research and development programmes for next-generation instruments, both for the European underground observatory, the Einstein Telescope, and for the ESA large science mission, LISA. We are also performing geological analysis at the Belgian-Dutch-German border region, a potential site for the Einstein Telescope. The positions Nikhef has vacancies for two PhD positions at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to develop instrumentation for gravitational wave observatories. At the heart of the Virgo and LIGO gravitational-wave detectors there are laser interferometers that measure distances with unprecedented sensitivity. While the basic operating principles are simple, they are very complex instruments. Our group develops the main interferometer simulation software used within the community and builds new hardware for shielding the ‘test masses’ from external vibrations. We have just begun preparing the detailed design of the Einstein Telescope (ET), a proposed new gravitational wave observatory in Europe. ET will be capable of delivering new and fascinating science over several decades, but its realisation will required substantial improvements to the most sensitive instruments every built.

The positions
The first position is with Prof. Andreas Freise and focusses on optical modelling and design of quantum-limited laser interferometers.
Your role: The aim of this project is to develop the optical design at the heart of the Einstein Telescope project. We will develop and extend our software tools and perform simulations of quantum-noise limited laser interferometers. Our unique tools allow us to study new ideas to answer the challenges set by the ambitious sensitivity goals of the Einstein Telescope, for example quantum entanglement schemes, or the use of higher-order optical modes. In particular, we will use models of opto-mechanical systems to improve the feedback and control systems that are required to position the optics in GW detectors with sub-nanometer precision. Measurements from the Virgo detector will be used to inform and validate new design ideas for the Einstein Telescope.

The second position is with Dr Conor Mow-Lowry and focusses on research and development of ultra-sensitive vibration isolation systems. Your role: The aim of this project is to apply laser interferometers to vibration isolation, allowing us to provide unprecedented performance improvements and extend the astrophysical reach of gravitational-wave observatories. Several big questions in astronomy can be answered observing the coalescence of heavy black holes deep in the universe. Unfortunately the gravitational-wave signals they create are at low frequencies, between 2 and 20 Hz, and they sit behind a wall of noise. Our new laser-interferometers provide a way to cancel this noise through a combination of novel design and extreme sensitivity. We will work to develop new instruments and techniques for the Virgo detector and design and build new hardware for ET.

While both PhD positions are affiliated to the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the successful candidates will be fully embedded in the gravitational-wave group at Nikhef.




You have a Master’s degree in Physics or a closely related discipline. Excellent analysis skills and an analytical mind-set, as well as excellent communication skills, including written English language proficiency are required. You have an ability to work independently and as a member of a research team. A collaborative attitude is strongly desired. Additionally, for the first position you should have a strong interest in software development and have experience with numerical modelling. For the second position you should have an interest in experimental physics and have experience with hands-on laboratory experiments. Contact information For further information please contact prof.dr. Andreas Freise:

Conditions of employment

Offer The successful candidate will be employed by the VU University, being one of the members in the Nikhef partnership. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,325 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years. Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as a maximum of 41 days of annual leave, based on fulltime employment, 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus, contribution to commuting expenses, a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge, discounts on collective insurances (healthcare- and car insurance).

Questions and application
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact prof. Andreas Freise, 

Interested candidates can send in their applications by clicking the 'Apply now' button below. Please be prepared to upload a cv, a cover letter and the names and email addresses of at least two references who are willing to upload a reference letter on your behalf.  Deadline for applications is 31/07/2020. We may contact good candidates before this deadline.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.


  • PhD
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • 1104845


Science Park 105, 1098 XG, Amsterdam

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