PhD positions in Earth’s Surface Dynamics

PhD positions in Earth’s Surface Dynamics

Published Deadline Location
20 Feb 29 Apr Amsterdam
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

Faculty of Science
Researchers and students at VU Amsterdam’s Faculty of Science tackle fundamental and complex scientific problems to help pave the way for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition, and from molecules to the moon: we cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. Our teaching and research have a strong experimentally technical, computational and interdisciplinary nature.

We work on new solutions guided by value-driven, interdisciplinary methodologies. We are committed to research, valorisation and training socially engaged citizens of the world who will make valuable contributions to a sustainable, healthy future.

Are you interested in joining the Faculty of Science? You will join undergraduate students, PhD candidates and researchers at the biggest sciences faculty in the Netherlands. You will combine a professional focus with a broad view of the world. We are proud of our collegial working climate, characterised by committed staff, a pragmatic attitude and engagement in the larger whole. The faculty is home to over 11,000 students enrolled in 40 study programmes. It employs over 1,600 professionals spread across 10 academic departments.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam stands for values-driven education and research. We are open-minded experts with the ability to think freely. - a broader mind. Maintaining an entrepreneurial perspective and concentrating on diversity, significance 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. Learn more about our codes of conduct

We are located on one physical campus, in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas business district, with excellent location and accessibility. Over 5,500 staff work at the VU and over 30,000 students attend academic education.

Diversity is the driving force of the VU. The VU wants to be accessible and receptive to diversity in disciplines, cultures, ideas, nationalities, beliefs, preferences and worldviews. We believe that trust, respect, interest and 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 internationalisation contribute to the quality of education, research and our services.

Therefore, we are always searching for people whose backgrounds and experience contribute to the diversity of the VU community.

Additional information

Are you interested in one of these two positions? Please apply via the application button and upload a single PDF that includes:
  1. A CV listing at the end the names and contact details of two referees.
  2. A 1-2 page cover letter outlining your background, previous research experience and qualities that make you ideally suited for one of these positions, and interest in the project.
  3. Academic transcripts and diplomas of previous academic degrees.

Timeline: Applications will remain open until April 29th. The start date is negotiable, but ideally on September 1st 2024.

Applications received by email will not be processed.


  • 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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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 29 Apr 2024 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).