PhD position in Earth’s Surface Dynamics

PhD position in Earth’s Surface Dynamics

Published Deadline Location
20 Feb 29 Apr Amsterdam

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Do you want to understand how Earth’s surface evolves through time? Do you want to combine field work in Italy with state-of-the-art lab techniques and numerical models? Please apply!

Job description

Mountain topography holds clues about the interaction between tectonic uplift, climate and erosion. Understanding these clues and unlocking the recent tectonic and erosional history that is carved into mountains is a fascinating and rapidly evolving endeavor in the field of Earth Sciences. However, some key aspects of the way in which landscapes respond to tectonics are still not well understood, and not incorporated in current models. At the process level, the role of sediment dynamics and the way they mediate incision and transport processes is not well understood in long timescales (104-106 yr). At the landscape scale, the role of inherited relief, present before the recent uplift stages, is often poorly constrained.

The overall aim of the RELICT project is to test how sediment supply and inherited relief influence the extent & timescales of transient fluvial incision and associated landscape response. Within this project, we are seeking two highly motivated PhD candidates: one PhD project will focus on the regional scale, and the other PhD on the sediment dynamics scale. The two projects are tightly linked, so both PhDs are expected to work in close collaboration. The two PhD projects combine analytical techniques (cosmogenic nuclides, thermochronology) with numerical modeling, and both include fieldwork in the stunning mountains of Calabria, in Southern Italy. The main PhD supervisors will be Dr. Duna Roda-Boluda (VU Amsterdam) and Dr. Benjamin Campforts (VU Amsterdam), with one candidate co-supervised by Prof. Taylor Schildgen (GFZ-Potsdam) and the other by Dr. Loraine Gourbet (GFZ-Potsdam).The PhD students will spend their 1st year at VU Amsterdam, their 2nd year at the GFZ Potsdam, and their 3rd and 4th years back at VU Amsterdam. The PhD degree will be issued by VU Amsterdam.

Support for the project includes a guaranteed monthly salary of € 2.770,00 - € 3.539,00 before taxes (see “What we offer?” below for a full list of benefits), tuition fees, and funding for field work, analytical expenses, conferences, and travel.

Your duties:
  • Coordinate field work for several weeks in Italy
  • Familiarize yourself with lab work, design and carry out experiments using state of the art thermochronometric and cosmogenic radionuclide techniques.
  • Learn and develop skills to use and implement open-source computational models in Python
  • Use model-data comparison for formulation and testing of hypotheses.
  • Learn how to write journal articles in English, culminating in a dissertation, and publishing these articles in leading scientific journals
  • Collaborating with other PhD students and experts at both Vrije Universiteit and GFZ-Potsdam
  • Attend and present at international conferences.
  • Contribute to teaching and supervising bachelor and master students.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • You are highly motivated to learn more about the processes that shape the Earth’s surface, and about pursuing a career in science.
  • You hold a MSc degree (or equivalent) in Earth Sciences or related field (you can apply provided your MSc diploma will be obtained before Autumn 2024).
  • You are excited to learn, or ideally have previous experience (but this is not required), in coding (e.g. Python, Matlab), labwork (e.g. cosmogenic radionuclide and/or thermochronology analyses), and fieldwork.
  • You are comfortable and enjoy working in a team and in close collaboration with other PhD students.
  • You have good English conversation and writing skills
  • You preferably have a driver’s license or a willingness to obtain it soon
  • You are willing to spend your 2nd year of the PhD at the GFZ Potsdam, in Germany (

As a university, we strive for equal opportunities for everyone, realizing that diversity takes many forms. We believe that diversity in all its complexity is invaluable for the quality of our education, research and services. We are always looking for talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This also means that we are committed to creating an inclusive community, so that we can use diversity as added value.

We recognize that each individual brings a unique set of skills, expertise and mindset. We would like to invite everyone who recognizes themselves in the profile to apply, even if you do not meet all the requirements.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1 year.

  • At the VU, a salary of € 2.770,00 (gross) per month during the first year that increases to a maximum of € 3.539,00 (gross) per month in the fourth year, for full-time employment.
  • An employment contract of initially 1 year, which will be extended to a total of 4 years based on good performance.
  • Please note that during the 2nd year, there is a planned 12-month research stay at the GFZ Potsdam in Germany ( During that year, you will receive a new contract in Germany (gross salary approximately in the range of 3100-3500 €), and will be eligible to GFZ benefits, and subject to taxes and social security contributions in Germany. After this year at the GFZ, you will come back to the VU for the final 2 years and VU terms of employment and regulations will apply again.

We also offer you attractive secondary employment conditions and schemes. Some examples:
  • A full-time 38-hour working week includes a holiday allowance of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you will have 96 extra holiday hours per year. In the case of a part-time appointment, this is calculated pro rata.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • large contribution to the ABP pension scheme
  • good and affordable sports facilities
  • contribution to travel costs for commuting


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Welcome to the Faculty of Science
At the Faculty of Science of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, scientists and students work on complex social issues for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition and from molecule to the moon: we focus on the full breadth of the sciences. Our education and research is highly experimental, technical, computational and interdisciplinary in nature.

We work on new solutions from a values-driven, interdisciplinary approach. Through research, through valorization, and by training socially involved global citizens - who in turn can make a valuable contribution to a sustainable, healthy future.

Are you coming to work at Science? Then you will work together with students, PhD candidates and scientists at the largest science faculty in the Netherlands. You combine a professional focus with a broad view of the world. We are proud of our collegial working environment, which is characterized by a driven and pragmatic attitude with involvement in the bigger picture. The faculty has more than 11,000 students who study in one of the 40 courses. More than 1,600 professionals work there, spread over 10 scientific departments.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam stands for values-driven education and research. We are free thinkers with expert knowledge and an open attitude – a broader mind. With an enterprising approach and attention to diversity, meaning and humanity, we work on sustainable solutions with social impact. By joining forces, across the boundaries of disciplines, we work towards a better world for people and planet. Together we create a safe and respectful working and study climate, and an inspiring environment for education and research. Read more about our codes of conduct .

We are located on one physical campus, in the heart of the Amsterdam Zuidas, with an excellent location and accessibility. More than 5,500 employees work at the VU and more than 30,000 students follow scientific education.

Diversity is a spearhead of the VU. The VU wants to be accessible and receptive to diversity in disciplines, cultures, ideas, nationalities, beliefs, preferences and philosophies. Based on trust, respect and interest, differences lead to new insights and innovation, to sharpness and clarity, to excellence and a broader understanding.

We stand for an inclusive community and believe that diversity and internationalization contribute to the quality of education, research and our services.

We are therefore constantly looking for people who contribute to the diversity of the VU community through their background and experience.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3770


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1085, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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