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  2. Technische Universiteit Delft (TUD)
  3. PhD in Steamy, watery, rocky worlds

PhD in Steamy, watery, rocky worlds

Most stars have planets, and at least 25% of the solar-type stars has a small, rocky, Earth-like planet in its habitable zone. Terrestrial-type planets have …

ongeveer 2 maanden geleden


Kluyverweg, Delft, Zuid-Holland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur
€ 2523 - € 2972 per maand


Most stars have planets, and at least 25% of the solar-type stars has a small, rocky, Earth-like planet in its habitable zone. Terrestrial-type planets have been detected and some atmospheres can already be observed with current facilities (e.g. Trappist-1). Additionally, huge ground-based telescopes, such as the 39-meter European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) are being built and large space-based telescopes (e.g. Habex/Luvoir) are being designed that can image such small planets around nearby stars and provide information about their properties. Without doubt, the most spell-binding property would be the presence of extraterrestrial life. Detecting life or even a planet’s habitability is hard: until into the 1960’s, Venus was thought to be habitable, because its bright clouds reflect most of the incident sunlight back to space. A spacecraft fly-by revealed that Venus has an oven-hot surface, and a surface pressure a hundred times that of Earth. Why and when the evolutionary paths of Venus and Earth, that are similarly sized and should have similar internal compositions, started to diverge. The answer to this question will help to better understand planetary atmospheres and climates, including that of our own Earth.

The focus of this project is on the astronomical observables that connect properties of a planet’s interior with its surface and atmosphere. The interior comprises the composition, structure, mantle temperature, and related viscosity. You will study how a planet’s viscosity determines its surface and atmosphere stability, and through that, its habitability. In particular, viscosity and planet size should have large effects on volcanic outgassing and volatile recycling. This holds a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to establish the relation between internal and external properties. The opportunity is to use current and future observations of atmospheres and surfaces of exoplanets and solar system planets to answer key questions posed by the field.

The ultimate goal of this project is to answer the question: What is the relation between a rocky planet’s internal properties and its observable surface and atmosphere properties over time?

You will be working 4 days at the TU Delft and 1 day at Anton Pannekoek Institut (API) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The Anton Pannekoek Institut (API) one of the leading academic astronomy institutes. Research is performed in nearly any field of modern astronomy and comprises both observational, computational and laboratory based astrophysics. Furthermore, close cooperation is advised with the other PEPSci-2 candidates.


Applicants are expected to have a university degree (MSc) in earth and/or planetary sciences, physics, applied mathematics, astronomy, or a related area, with a strong background in numerical modelling. Experience in working with observational data would be an asset. Applicants must be proficient in spoken and written English.

The successful candidate will be granted a temporary employment contract with the university for a period of 4 years (48 months), with an evaluation at the end of the first year. Within the contract period, the candidate is expected to produce a dissertation (PhD thesis) of sufficient quality for him/her to be awarded a PhD.


TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount for health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. An International Children’s Centre offers childcare and an international primary school. Dual Career Services offers support to accompanying partners. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.

As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment; an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff, and a mentor; and a Doctoral Education Programme aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related, and research skills. Please visit www.tudelft.nl/phd for more information.

Additional information

For information about this vacancy, you can contact B.C. Root, Assistant Professor, email: b.c.root@tudelft.nl, tel: +31152788631, or, Jean-Michel Désert, Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, email: desert@uva.nl, tel: +31(0)20 525 7466.
For information about the selection procedure, please contact Mrs. R. van Wingaarden, Management Assistant, email: n.vanwingaarden@tudelft.nl.

To apply, please send your CV, a statement of purpose, a list of courses in your BSc and MSc programmes including marks, a list of published papers or reports, the names and addresses of two references and a letter of application. Please e-mail your application by 31 May 2020 to Mrs. R. van Wingaarden, n.vanwingaarden@tudelft.nl.


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