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PhD Parallel algorithm design for distributed geoscience applications (1.0 FTE)

The Faculty of Geosciences at Utrecht University is looking for a PhD Parallel algorithm design for distributed geoscience applications. Are you interested? Then read the full profile and apply.

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Domplein, Utrecht, Utrecht
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur
€ 2222 - € 2840 per maand


The PhD research will be conducted at the Department of Physical Geography, Faculty of Geosciences, and the Department of Information and Computing Sciences, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, in collaboration with multiple national and international partners in the field of parallel and distributed computation. The intended starting date is 1 January 2018 and the project will last for four years.

Project description

The large volume of spatio-temporal geographical data available today provides new opportunities for improved statistical and simulation modelling in geosciences. At the same time, however, there is a considerable increase in the demands on hardware to execute such models. In many cases, solving models with the current data require high-performance computing facilities (HPC). The project aims to design parallel algorithms for spatio-temporal modelling for implementation into a generic software framework capable of distributed execution of models (HPX) and to evaluate the approach using case study models.

You will design algorithms for shared and distributed memory based execution of statistical and simulation models commonly used in geosciences. Using these algorithms, you will develop a prototype software framework, which enables construction of a wide range of simulation models in geosciences. Together with geoscientists, you will evaluate the framework in case studies, including remote sensing data analysis and environmental epidemiology. You will write articles for international peer reviewed journals reporting on the results of the research. The PhD thesis will be based on these articles.

Your working environment will be a dynamic project team with a focus on fundamental research in computing sciences and application of computing sciences to geosciences. There will be ample opportunity to cooperate with researchers in the team, who will include partners from SURFsara, the Netherlands (hosting the Dutch national supercomputer), HPX developers of University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, and the PCRaster environmental software research team of Utrecht University, in addition to the two faculties of Geosciences and Science of Utrecht University. As a PhD student, you will invest a limited amount of time to education by teaching Ba and/or MSc students.


We are looking for a highly-motivated candidate with:

  • MSc degree in computer science or geoscience (earth science, physical geography, human geography or related discipline) with a specialisation in computer science
  • Background in parallel programming in C++, preferably with experience in HPX ( stellar-group.org/libraries/hpx/ ) or related technologies
  • Strong motivation for research and capability for writing scientific articles
  • Keen interest in application of computer science to geoscience

You should be proficient in English, have excellent scientific writing and presentation skills, and be an enthusiastic team player. An open and communicative attitude and a cooperative spirit are requirements for success in this project. Candidates with a background in both computer science and geoscience are invited to apply. A strong background in parallel algorithms and software engineering is a requirement.


We offer a 12-month full-time position with the prospect of a phased extension with a maximum of 36 months (4 years full time in total), depending on performance. The gross salary starts at € 2,222 per month in the first year and increases to € 2,840 gross per month in the fourth year for full-time employment according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities. These positions are officially offered for 38 hours per week (1.0 FTE). Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8 % and a year-end bonus of 8.3 % per year. We offer a pension scheme, collective insurance schemes and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). You'll find more information about working at Utrecht University here.

Additional information

Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from Dr. Derek Karssenberg (d.karssenberg@uu.nl).


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Geosciences offers education and research concerning the geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and anthroposphere. With a population of 2,600 students (BSc and MSc) and 600 staff members, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty is organised in four Departments: Innovation Environmental and Energy Sciences, Earth Sciences, Physical Geography, and Human Geography and Urban and Regional Planning.

The Faculty of Science is organised in six departments: Mathematics, Information and Computing Sciences, Physics, Chemistry, Pharmacy, and Biology. The Department of Information and Computing Sciences offers two bachelor programs and four specialised master programmes. The nine research groups are clustered into three divisions called Interaction, Algorithms, and Intelligent Software Systems. They all perform fundamental and applied research on the highest international level.

The vacancy has been opened within the department of Physical Geography. The department is involved in conducting research and teaching and is partly responsible for the BSc and MSc Earth Sciences programme. The research is directed to understanding the physical processes, patterns, and forms at the Earth's terrestrial surface. We strive to understand their mutual interactions and their relations to biotic factors, including humanity. At the department, the PhD student will work in the geocomputation research group, which aims at the design and software implementation of spatio-temporal modelling frameworks for heterogeneous systems, and the application of these frameworks to hydrology, environmental epidemiology, and natural hazards.