The main supervisor
The main supervisors for this PhD position are Floris van der Tak (Kapteyn Astronomical Institute & SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research) and Gerrit Groenenboom (Institute for Molecules and Materials, Nijmegen). The position is part of the Dutch Astrochemistry Network III, an interdisciplinary network and cohesive research programme funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) since 2010.
Now that over 5000 extrasolar planets have been discovered, the question of planetary habitability is advancing to the forefront of modern-day astrochemistry. This makes the organic content of regions of star and planet formation of great current interest, as the chemical content of planet-forming disks determines the habitability of the resulting planetary systems. While submillimeter telescopes such as ALMA have recently made great progress in measuring larger (mid-size) organics in star-forming regions and planet-forming disks, the abundances of their smaller building blocks are highly uncertain, because their symmetry requires sensitive mid-infrared observations. The highly successful James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is changing this situation, in particular with its MIRI spectrograph, which The Netherlands helped to develop. However, the interpretation of the MIRI spectra requires molecular modeling, which is what this PhD position is all about. Estimating the abundances of molecules in regions of star and planet formation from mid-infrared observations requires radiative transfer models for dilute gas/dust mixtures. The quality of such models is often limited by the available input data: spectroscopic data from the laboratory, and collision data from computation. While rovibrational spectroscopy is available for many molecules of astrochemical interest, mid-infrared collision data are still scarce. The PhD student will focus on linear molecules, for which there is an existing computational framework for the computation of collision data. In the first ~6 months, the candidate will learn how to do scattering calculations in Nijmegen; after that, the candidate will carry out the radiative transfer models in Groningen and explore different astronomical environments such as star-forming regions and protoplanetary disks.
The Kapteyn Astronomical Institute is part of the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA) and is recognised worldwide for the quality of its research in multiple areas of astronomy. With 15 faculty and 50 PhD students, it is the second-largest astronomical institute in the Netherlands. Groningen, a historic town in the northern Netherlands, occupies a strategic place in Dutch astronomy, hosting both the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, the far-infrared laboratory of the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON) and the NOVA laboratory for sub-millimeter instrumentation. The Kapteyn Institute has a strong connection with the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) in Dwingeloo, a European centre of radio astronomy research. Staff and PhD students at the Kapteyn Institute frequently collaborate with SRON and ASTRON scientists and engineers. There are also strong interdisciplinary connections with other institutes in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and the Dutch Origins Center. English is the common language spoken at the institute.
University of Groningen
We seek excellent students with a strong background in the physical sciences who desire to obtain a PhD degree from a top European university. A successful candidate must hold a M.Sc or equivalent degree in Physics, Astronomy or a related field, by the starting date of the position. Previous research experience and computational skills will be important criteria for the selection.
Conditions of employment
Fixed-term contract: 48 months.
The PhD student position is paid according to the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO), which means that PhD students earn internationally competitive salaries and are eligible for both social security and retirement benefits. All our PhD positions are funded for four years.