PhD Position Developing a New Modelling Framework to Identify Air Pollution Sources in Urban Area

PhD Position Developing a New Modelling Framework to Identify Air Pollution Sources in Urban Area

Published Deadline Location
6 Mar 12 Apr Delft

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Do you want to contribute to cleaner air by developing new methods for improved source identification of air pollutants?

Job description

Clean air is vital for healthy and livable cities, especially considering the increasing global urbanization. Many heavily industrialized, urban areas in Western Europe still exceed WHO recommended limits. The topic of urban air quality is however complex, with many processes interacting on multiple scales. This makes it difficult to understand the link between emissions and measured pollution. What makes it even more complicated is when a pollutant is measured locally but the source location and strength are unknown. In such case, inverse plume models are often applied to identify the potential source. However, this approach breaks down in complicated urban networks, as small changes in local wind direction in combination with changing geometry cause the pollutant to take different street channels. The link between source and measurement is thus contained in the variability of the flow.

This project aims to quantify this variability and relate it to variability in pollutant levels. New types of urban flow modelling, so-called large-eddy simulations, in combination with mathematical models are expected to result in improved methods for source localization and quantification. We will first focus on such high-resolution large-eddy simulations (LES) in which turbulent motion is solved down to the building scale, and its ability to simulate observed dispersion patterns. Second, we will build a mathematical framework in which we analyze the simulation results, and by which we can ultimately improve source estimation. Broadly, you will work on the following research questions:

  • Can we reproduce observed dispersion features with the use of LES? Which model complexity (e.g., prescribing boundary conditions) is needed to accurately reproduce concentration patterns?
  • How does the pollutant dispersion and its variability change with varying external conditions (e.g., large-scale wind, atmospheric stability, and urban setting)?
  • How can we best represent this variability in outcome with a statistical model and take its inverse?
  • Is such framework adaptive and generalizable to changes in urban setting?

Do you want to improve and develop novel modelling methods for urban air quality? Would you like to learn more about the urban atmosphere and its modelling? Would you like to contribute to cleaner cities?

Then consider applying for this PhD-position in the Department of Geoscience and Remote Sensing. You will join a new young team, supervised by dr. Steven van der Linden, in which we aim to bridge the gap between fundamental knowledge and application. We offer you a team in which creative ideas and personal growth (e.g., in teamwork, presenting science) are encouraged.


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)



  • an MSc. degree in (applied) physics, mathematics, meteorology, environmental sciences, geophysics, or similar;
  • demonstrable experience in fluid dynamics and/or mathematical modelling.
  • demonstrable experience in programming;
  • an affinity with conceptual analysis;
  • an interest in meteorology and air quality, and eagerness to work on models of those;
  • very good command of English (spoken and written).


  • a background in turbulence or flow modelling;
  • experience with high-performance computing;
  • affinity with analysis of large datasets.

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 Civil Engineering & Geosciences

The Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEG) is committed to outstanding international research and education in the field of civil engineering, applied earth sciences, traffic and transport, water technology, and delta technology. Our research feeds into our educational programmes and covers societal challenges such as climate change, energy transition, resource availability, urbanisation and clean water. Our research projects are conducted in close cooperation with a wide range of research institutions. CEG is convinced of the importance of open science and supports its scientists in integrating open science in their research practice. The Faculty of CEG comprises 28 research groups in the following seven departments: Materials Mechanics Management & Design, Engineering Structures, Geoscience and Engineering, Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Transport & Planning, Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD05113


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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