PhD Position Multi-modal and Computational Adaptive Imaging for Archaeological Samples and Art Objects

PhD Position Multi-modal and Computational Adaptive Imaging for Archaeological Samples and Art Objects

Published Deadline Location
24 Jul 1 Sep Delft

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Development of novel acquisition patterns for the investigation of cultural heritage objects (e.g. paintings) by spectroscopic imaging techniques (e.g. XRF and RIS)

Job description

The Alfeld and Van de Plas labs are currently offering a joint PhD position in instrumental and computational methods for multi-modal adaptive imaging, with a focus on imaging historical samples and cultural artefacts such as paintings.

The labs are located at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands, and are part of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (Alfeld lab) and the Delft Center for Systems and Control (Van de Plas lab).

This position will lie at the interface between on the one hand spectral imaging instrumentation and hardware, and on the other hand mathematical engineering and machine learning.

Spectral imaging techniques, i.e. imaging modalities in which for each pixel a full spectrum is acquired, have changed the field of material characterization dramatically over the last decades, allowing for more in-depth characterization of complex samples and enabling a more exploratory approach to material investigation. One bottleneck in their application is that the techniques providing the richest insight are often relatively slow (i.e. they tend to require long acquisition times, or even may induce sample alteration). At the same time, relatively fast non-invasive techniques often provide only limited information.

As a PhD candidate your task will be the development of adaptive imaging techniques for complex samples (a) by modeling the results of “slow” techniques based on “fast” techniques, using a combination of machine learning and physical simulations, and (b) by deriving from these predictions efficient image acquisition patterns with implemention on in-house built instruments. The candidate's tasks will be mainly oriented towards computational modeling and training on data from selected paintings, but will also include acquisition of new data from historical paintings to control the entire "chaîne opératoire", and preparing and performing scientific communication in written form (i.e. journal articles) and in oral form (i.e. speaking at conferences).

The objects will initially be historical paintings, which will be measured by “fast” X-ray radiography and multi-spectral photography, and by “slow” X-Ray fluorescence and X-Ray Diffraction techniques. As the PhD progresses, expansion to other sample types and instruments will be pursued.

The labs have a strong network of international collaborators in both academia and industry. Collaborations include chemistry and instrument partners, such as the Mass Spectrometry Research Center at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN, USA), as well as history and art partners, such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Relevant publications from our labs:

  • M. Alfeld, S. Pedetti, P. Martinez, P. Walter, “Joint data treatment for Vis–NIR reflectance imaging spectroscopy and XRF imaging acquired in the Theban Necropolis in Egypt by data fusion and t-SNE”, Comptes Rendus Phys. 2018, 19, 625-635.
  • M. Alfeld, K. Janssens, J. Dik, W. de Nolf, G. van der Snickt, Optimization of mobile scanning macro-XRF systems for the in situ investigation of historical paintings, J. Anal. At. Spectrom. 2011, 26, 899-909.
  • Van de Plas R., Yang J., Spraggins J., Caprioli R.M., Image fusion of mass spectrometry and microscopy: a multimodality paradigm for molecular tissue mapping, Nature Methods, vol. 12, no. 4, 2015, pp. 366–372.
  • Verbeeck N., Yang J., De Moor B., Caprioli R.M., Waelkens E., Van de Plas R., Automated Anatomical Interpretation of Ion Distributions in Tissue: Linking Imaging Mass Spectrometry to Curated Atlases, Analytical Chemistry, vol. 86, no. 18, 2014, pp. 8974–8982.


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


The Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Mechanical Engineering (3ME) of the TU Delft is a very diverse faculty. The faculty participates in the Dutch 2018 sector plan for beta-sciences with several focal areas including the area of “Data-driven modelling and control” that this position is part of.

  • The applicant should have a MSc degree in Engineering, Computer Science, Systems & Control, Statistics, Computational Physics, Computational Chemistry, or any field related to the labs’ research topics.
  • Candidates with experience in spectroscopy, material science, instrumental control, image & signal processing, machine learning, numerical analysis, or statistics are especially encouraged to apply.
  • Strong motivation to work in a multidisciplinary environment and interact with collaborators in chemistry, mathematical engineering, and material science is essential.
  • Good command of English is required.
  • While an interest in cultural heritage is beneficial, no formal training is expected.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2395 per month in the first year to € 3061 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 sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.


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 and aim to be as inclusive as possible (see our Code of Conduct). Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.

Challenge. Change. Impact!


Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering

The Faculty of 3mE carries out pioneering research, leading to new fundamental insights and challenging applications in the field of mechanical engineering. From large-scale energy storage, medical instruments, control technology and robotics to smart materials, nanoscale structures and autonomous ships. The foundations and results of this research are reflected in outstanding, contemporary education, inspiring students and PhD candidates to become socially engaged and responsible engineers and scientists. The faculty of 3mE is a dynamic and innovative faculty with an international scope and high-tech lab facilities. Research and education focus on the design, manufacture, application and modification of products, materials, processes and mechanical devices, contributing to the development and growth of a sustainable society, as well as prosperity and welfare.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering. Do you want to experience working at our faculty? This video will introduce you to some of our researchers and their work.

Materials Science and Engineering Department
The Department of Materials Science and Engineering of the Faculty 3mE aims to provide internationally recognised, high quality research of benefit to industry and society, addressing lifecycle, structure, properties and functionality from a physicochemical perspective. Within the Department, the Materials In Art and Archaeology develops and applies ground-breaking, analytical concepts for studying objects from cultural heritage. Our expertise centres on the elemental and structural characterization of materials in support of technical art history and conservation of artwork. We have close collaboration with (inter)nationally leading partners in the worlds of arts, archaeology and sciences and bridge the gap between the sciences and the humanities in both education and research.

Delft Center for Systems and Control Department
The department Delft Center for Systems and Control (DCSC) of the faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering, coordinates the education and research activities in systems and control at Delft University of Technology. The Centers' research mission is to conduct fundamental research in systems dynamics and control, involving dynamic modelling, advanced control theory, optimisation and signal analysis. The research is motivated by advanced technology development in physical imaging systems, renewable energy, robotics and transportation systems.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD00382


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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