PhD Model-based machine learning methodologies for identifying and quantifying resilience and tipping points in complex systems

PhD Model-based machine learning methodologies for identifying and quantifying resilience and tipping points in complex systems

Published Deadline Location
21 Nov 1 Jan Wageningen

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Job description

We are looking for a motivated PhD candidate to investigate and apply new model-based machine learning methods for the identification and quantification of mechanisms underlying resilience and tipping points in these complex systems.

Complex systems, like agri-food systems, fisheries, and economies, are under pressure from anthropogenic demand for resources and climate change. You will be working together with an interdisciplinary team of experts of artificial intelligence, applied mathematics and statistics, system simulation and resilience modelling.

Your position
You will work on model-based machine learning methods in order:
  1. to learn mechanisms underlying resilience and tipping points from (often noisy and incomplete) time series data;
  2. to quantify uncertainty around resilience and risks of tipping points, and identify alternative possible developments which would occur after a tipping point or loss of resilience; and
  3. to condense more complex process-based models to high-speed parsimonious machine-learned models for various applications in food security and/or climate change related challenge.
The research is embedded within the chair group Applied Mathematics, which is led by Prof.dr. Peter van Heijster, of Biometris and the Wageningen Data Competence Center (WDCC). You will be co-supervised by Associate Prof. George van Voorn, Prof. dr. Ioannis Athanasiadis and Prof. dr. Peter van Heijster.


Wageningen University & Research


  • a successfully completed MSc degree in (applied) mathematics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, systems/control engineering, applied physics, theoretical biology or a related field;
  • experience in computer programming (e.g., MATLAB, Python, R) is an essential asset.
  • fundamental knowledge and experience in one or more of the following subjects
    • mathematically modelling;
    • machine learning;
    • data science;
    • artificial intelligence; and
    • statistics.
Publications in relevant journals and conferences will be a plus.
  • affinity with interdisciplinary applications.
  • motivation and curiosity to advance science.
For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here.

Conditions of employment

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • study leave and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.
In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.
The gross salary for the first year is € 2.541,- per month rising to € 3.247,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the " Best University " in the Netherlands for the 17th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.


Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen University & Research
The mission of Wageningen University & Research is "To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life". Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branch­es, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR's Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen's unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

These are the points our employees list as good reasons to come work at WUR: read the 5 reasons to come work at WUR

The Biometris Group
Biometris, one of the largest groups of quantitative scientists in North-Western Europe, develops statistical and mathematical methods for the quantification of biological processes and processes in our living environment. These methods are applied and validated in practice and are often available as software packages. In addition, we provide education at the undergraduate, Master, PhD, and PostDoc levels, as well as training and consultancy for industry. We cover a wide range of application areas, from gene to ecosystem and from product to production chain. Our goal is to bring quantitative methods to life! Biometris focuses on quantitative descriptions for a range of important life sciences applications aimed at improving the quality of life, including the modelling of cellular processes, crop growth, agents, populations, patterns, ecosystems, social-ecological and socio-technical systems, and various engineered and controlled environments, using different model approaches (involving mathematics, software, and statistics).

The Wageningen Data Competence Center
WDCC is an interdisciplinary unit at Wageningen University and Research that drives the developments in (big) data, data science and artificial intelligence in the green life sciences. WDCC brings education, research, value creation, infrastructure and data management together. WDCC, serves as an internal and external contact point 'to explore the potential of data to help improve the quality of life'. WDCC has developed an extensive data science research portfolio in the areas of digital twins, artificial intelligence and data-driven and high-tech research. The Wageningen Artificial Intelligence Lab lead by Prof. Ioannis Athanasiadis researches the enabling role of artificial intelligence for investigating nature, and data science applications in the green life sciences.


  • PhD
  • Agriculture
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • Doctorate
  • P1109581-1


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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