PhD Position Carbon Chemistry on the Surfaces of the Galilean Ice Moons

PhD Position Carbon Chemistry on the Surfaces of the Galilean Ice Moons

Published Deadline Location
9 Feb 21 Mar Delft
Carbon chemistry on the surfaces of the Galilean ice moons

Job description

In the group of Dr. Niels Ligterink, a laboratory-based PhD project is available on the investigation of carbon chemistry on the heavily irradiated surfaces of the Galilean moons and unravel the endogenic and/or exogenic origin of these molecules.

Using the ICEBEAR setup [Kipfer et al., 2023], the successful applicant will simulate the destruction and formation of carbon-bearing molecules on the surfaces of the ice moons Europa, Ganymede, and Calisto. The results of this project will help interpret ongoing observational efforts, such as the mapping of CO2 ice on Europa’s surface [Villanueva et al., 2023], guide the instruments of the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) and Europa Clipper space exploration missions, and pave the way for future landed missions in search of biosignatures [Europa Lander, Voyage 2050]. The main activities are:

  • Laboratory studies with the ICEBEAR setup, to produce and irradiate analogues of icy moon surfaces, understand how carbon-bearing molecules are formed or destroyed, and generate data that helps interpret current and guide future observational and space exploration endeavors.
  • Active participation in the scientific life and activities of the TU Delft Planetary Exploration section, Delft Planetary Labs (with Dr. S. Cazaux, Dr. S. Potin), and the Department of Space Engineering
  • Teaching assistant assignments and supervising BSc. and MSc. students
  • Presentation of scientific results at national and international conferences
  • Possibility to be involved in space instrument development, Lunar & cometary science, and/or telescope observations (e.g., ALMA, JWST).



Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


The candidate must have a Master-level degree or equivalent in a relevant field (e.g., planetary science, chemistry, physics, astronomy) by the starting date. Experience with laboratory experiments and techniques relevant to this position (e.g., vacuum technology, spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, cryogenics, and radiation sources) is strongly preferred. Good coding skills are a plus. The candidate must be competent in spoken and written English. 

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. 

For international applicants, TU Delft has the Coming to Delft Service. This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a Dual Career Programme for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.


Delft University of Technology

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.


Challenge. Change. Impact!


Faculty Aerospace Engineering

The Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at Delft University of Technology is one of the world’s most highly ranked (and most comprehensive) research, education and innovation communities devoted entirely to aerospace engineering. More than 200 science staff, around 270 PhD candidates and close to 3000 BSc and MSc students apply aerospace engineering disciplines to address the global societal challenges that threaten us today, climate change without doubt being the most important. Our focal subjects: sustainable aerospace, big data and artificial intelligence, bio-inspired engineering and smart instruments and systems. Working at the faculty means working together. With partners in other faculties, knowledge institutes, governments and industry, both aerospace and non-aerospace. Working in field labs and innovation hubs on our university campus and beyond.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering.

The section Planetary Exploration is home to various research groups investigating planetary bodies in our Solar System, such as icy moons, Venus, the Moon, asteroids, meteorites, and Mars, but also exoplanets and the formation of planetary systems. Members of this multidisciplinary section participate in space exploration missions of ESA, NASA, and JAXA. Close ties are maintained with the other sections of the Department of Space Engineering: Astrodynamics & Space Missions, Space Systems Engineering, and Space Instrumentation.



Additional information

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply no later than 21 March 2024 via the application button. A complete application consists of a:

  • Cover letter / Personal statement detailing (but not limited to): past research experience and the skills obtained, reasons for pursuing a 4-year PhD research project, and your aspirations for the future (max. 2 pages)
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV, max. 2 pages)
  • Full list and transcripts (grades) of all university-level courses (Bachelor- and Master-level) and a translated version if not in English, German, French, or Dutch (notarized translation is not needed)

Please note:

  • With the exception of the list of transcripts, all application material should be written in English.
  • The application deadline is 21 March 2024. Within two weeks of the deadline the applicant will be notified if they are selected for an interview (online or in-person). This interview will consist of a 20-minute presentation on a topic of the candidate's choosing, followed by a formal interview. There might be a second round of interviews.
  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.

Questions about the position and application procedure can be addressed to Niels Ligterink ( 




  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD04899


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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Application procedure

A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.

Application procedure

Application procedure

A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.

Make sure to apply no later than 21 Mar 2024 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).