PhD on critical transitions in rotating turbulence

PhD on critical transitions in rotating turbulence

Published Deadline Location
1 Jul 20 Aug Eindhoven
Are you intrigued by coherent structure formation in geophysically and astrophysically inspired flows? Are you interested in the abstraction and statistical description of this process? Are you passionate about the application of optical flow diagnostics in laboratory experiments?

Job description

An intriguing effect of constraining a turbulent flow, e.g. by adding rotation, is that the energy cascade may change: some part of the energy may be transferred to larger scales, forming large-scale structures (vortices or jets) that are essentially two-dimensional. There is evidence that this change is sharp: the transition between pure downscale energy transfer and (partial) upscale transfer resembles a critical transition. Can we understand, model and predict this transition? How universal is this transition with respect to the flow forcing mechanism (thermal convection or mechanical forcing)? Large-scale structures are found in many constrained turbulent flow systems at planetary scales. Knowledge of the transition will lead to a better understanding of these flows, with predictive power for similar flow problems that are harder to diagnose. For example, the structure of the flow in Earth's liquid-metal outer core is decisive for the generation of the magnetic field that shields us from harmful radiation. The application also extends to planetary atmospheres, including that of our own Earth.

The goal of this PhD project is to experimentally explore the transition to large-scale structure formation in rotationally constrained turbulence. You will design a novel experimental setup incorporating both thermal and mechanical flow forcing. You will apply 3D particle tracking velocimetry for volumetric flow diagnostics, allowing us to quantify the energy transfers among spatial scales. You will evaluate the transition properties for the two forcing mechanisms. Is there universal behavior?

This PhD position is part of the project 'Universal critical transitions in constrained turbulence', in which this topic is studied both numerically and experimentally. Additional directions to be explored are: influence of lateral confinement (enclosed vs horizontally periodic domains), description of hysteresis in the transition, and investigation of energy transfers in the saturated final vortex state. The final goal is the development of a predictive model for the transition: are the properties universal?

You will become a member of the Fluids and Flows group, consisting of ~35 researchers (PhD students, postdocs and staff). The group covers a wide range of fluid flow topics organized into four main research lines: Turbulence, Environmental Fluid Mechanics, Multiphase and Complex Fluids and Micro- and Nanohydrodynamics.

Besides research you will also contribute to education within our group and the Department of Applied Physics. You will guide and  supervise BSc and MSc students in their research projects. Other assistance in education, e.g. in BSc-level courses, is usually limited to around 5% of your contract time. Note that if you are specifically interested in teaching and education, there is the option for a 1-year extension of your PhD studentship. Your teaching and education tasks will then amount to a time equivalent of more than a full contract year during your PhD project. Please express your interest to the vacancy holder/supervisor in charge.


Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)


  • We are looking for an enthusiastic, highly motivated PhD student with a solid background in fluid dynamics and turbulence.
  • Experience with experimental techniques for flow diagnostics.
  • A master's degree (or an equivalent university degree) in (applied) physics, mechanical engineering or related subjects.
  • Knowledge of statistical physics is an asset.
  • A research oriented attitude.
  • Ability to work in a team.
  • Fluent in spoken and written English.

Conditions of employment

A meaningful job in a dynamic and ambitious university, in an interdisciplinary setting and within an international network. You will work on a beautiful, green campus within walking distance of the central train station. In addition, we offer you:
  • Full-time employment for four years, with an intermediate evaluation (go/no-go) after nine months. You will spend 10% of your employment on teaching tasks.
  • Salary and benefits (such as a pension scheme, paid pregnancy and maternity leave, partially paid parental leave) in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, scale P (min. €2,770 max. €3,539).
  • A year-end bonus of 8.3% and annual vacation pay of 8%.
  • High-quality training programs and other support to grow into a self-aware, autonomous scientific researcher. At TU/e we challenge you to take charge of your own learning process.
  • An excellent technical infrastructure, on-campus children's day care and sports facilities.
  • An allowance for commuting, working from home and internet costs.
  • A Staff Immigration Team and a tax compensation scheme (the 30% facility) for international candidates.

Additional information

About us

Eindhoven University of Technology is an internationally top-ranking university in the Netherlands that combines scientific curiosity with a hands-on attitude. Our spirit of collaboration translates into an open culture and a top-five position in collaborating with advanced industries. Fundamental knowledge enables us to design solutions for the highly complex problems of today and tomorrow. 

Curious to hear more about what it's like as a PhD candidate at TU/e? Please view the video.


Do you recognize yourself in this profile and would you like to know more? Please contact the hiring manager Rudie Kunnen

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We invite you to submit a complete application by using the 'apply now'-button on this page.
The application should include a:
  • Cover letter in which you describe your motivation and qualifications for the position.
  • Curriculum vitae, including a list of your publications and the contact information of three references.
  • Brief description of your MSc thesis.

We look forward to your application and will screen it as soon as we have received it. Screening will continue until the position has been filled.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • V34.7587


Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)

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De Rondom 70, 5612 AP, Eindhoven

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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 20 Aug 2024 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).