PhD Position Storm Wave Interaction with Hybrid Dune-Dike Coastal Defences

Do you want to work with colleagues in Delft and abroad on physical and numerical modelling of hybrid dune-dike sea defences under extreme storms and sea level rise?
  • WO
  • Tijdelijk
Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate to join the international research team of the European project DuneFront.

DuneFront aims at developing new knowledge and tools to optimize dune-dike hybrid Nature-based Solutions as a new generation of sustainable, aesthetic, nature-inclusive coastal protection. It focusses on ecology (e.g. Marram grass) and morphology of the dune, the safety of the combined dunes and dikes under waves and storm surges, and – most importantly – the interaction between these. 

Within this multi-disciplinary project, your specific focus will be on the hydraulic efficiency of the dune-dike hybrid defence during extreme conditions. In such a hybrid coastal defence, the dune initially acts as a buffer and prevents wave overtopping of the dike. As the dune erodes, the dike becomes increasingly exposed to the waves. How storm waves interact with and impact both the (partially) eroded dune and the dike is still unknown because these systems have only been studied separately in the past. As a result it is still unclear how both systems, when combined, should be designed to reach a given safety level.

To reach this understanding a combination of data collection and analysis, numerical modelling and laboratory experiments will be used. You will do this in close collaboration with other DuneFront researchers, and more specifically a PhD candidate at Ghent University (Belgium, there is also a vacancy for the Ghent PhD published) and a Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Braunschweig (Germany). You will furthermore collaborate with a Postdoc also based at TU Delft whose main task will be to generalize the findings and integrate them into a digital twin platform enabling effective design of dune-dike hybrid defences.  

As a first task, you and the above-mentioned researchers will collect and analyze the design details and (hydraulic) boundary conditions of existing demonstrator sites along the NW European coast. An example is the dike-in-dune solution as applied in Katwijk in the Netherlands.

Next the coastal protection functioning of these demonstrators (located respectively in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany) during extreme conditions will be analysed using dedicated laboratory experiments and state-of-the-art modelling using a suite of numerical models (XBeach-SurfBeat, XBeach-NonHydrostatic and SWASH). You will lead the experiments at TU Delft, which focus on the analysis of the Dutch demonstrator, and will participate and co-design the experiments led by Ghent University and TU Braunschweig respectively.

The specific focus of the TU Delft tests will be on the hydrodynamics of the eroded dune-dike hybrid protection system for the Dutch demonstrator. This includes the transformation of the full wave field (sea-swell and infragravity waves) over the eroded sandy profile, but also the interaction of these waves with the dike (wave runup and overtopping, wave impacts). The laboratory tests led by Ghent University will include a mobile sandy bed and at TU Braunschweig vegetation will be included as well. The effect of the infragravity waves (both remotely and locally generated) on these fluid-structure interaction processes at the dike will be a focal point of your research considering all three experiments where the collected data will be used to unravel the dominant mechanisms controlling the hydrodynamic loading of the dune-dike-vegetation system and validate the numerical models.

This 4 year-PhD position can start on January 1st, 2024 at the earliest.


We are seeking a candidate with:

  • A MSc degree in Engineering, Geography, Earth system science or related discipline,
  • Ability to think conceptually and quantitatively,
  • Ability to write and communicate in English,
  • An intrinsic motivation to cooperate in a larger research project,
  • Experience with a coding language commonly used in engineering (e.g., Fortran, Matlab, Python),
  • Knowledge of coastal zone hydrodynamics,
  • Knowledge of or experience numerical and/or experimental modeling of waves,
  • Good organisation skills,
  • Affinity with engineering practice,
  • Being able to read Dutch is a bonus.

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 € 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.

Meer informatie

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Marion Tissier, e-mail: and Dr. Bas Hofland, e-mail: