PhD Position Reliability/Risk-Based Modelling for Assessing Railway Embankment Stability

  • WO
  • Tijdelijk
Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


The current reliability framework for the stability assessment of railway embankments is derived from the general-purpose Eurocode standards that may be overly conservative in their implementation in the current guideline. This project will contribute to developing a new framework, by revisiting the approach to achieving target safety levels for railway embankments and the underlying assumptions from the Eurocode standards. It will include consideration of full and semi-probabilistic approaches, partial factors, characteristic values, target reliability levels, fragility curves, various data sources and real-time modelling, and builds on the advances made by TU Delft in assessing flood defence infrastructure through the NWO project Reliable Dykes.

This project aims to: (a) enhance the reliability/risk-based framework, which is tailored to the characteristics of loads and resistances in Dutch railway embankments, through advanced probabilistic modelling techniques; (b) account for the site characterisation of embankments and subsoil layers, including the statistical characterisation of geometric and geologic features, and the spatial variability of soil properties within soil layers; (c) perform 2D and 3D numerical modelling of embankment reliability, leading to the development of 3D stochastic (e.g. Random Finite Element Method) models for reliability-based assessments of embankment stability and allowing for material behaviours including creep and strain localization; (d) develop and validate numerical tools for application in engineering practice.

The project will be done in close collaboration with other projects within the research program RESET – “Reliable Embankments for the Safe Expansion of Rail Traffic” – a joint initiative between ProRail, Deltares and TU Delft.


We are looking for a candidate with an MSc degree in Geotechnical Engineering or a related field. The candidate should have a strong background in numerical modelling and soil mechanics, and have a genuine interest and aptitude for the development, computer implementation and application of numerical and probabilistic-based algorithms. The candidate should have excellent computer programming skills, proficiency in verbal and written English, and experience with team-work.

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.


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!


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 € 2541 per month in the first year to € 3247 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.

Meer informatie

For additional information (other than application procedure), please contact Prof. Michael Hicks, e-mail: