Post Doctoral Research Associate - development of instrumentation for gravitational wave observatories

Research / Academic
We have a vacancy for a Post Doctoral Research Associate at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to develop instrumentation for gravitational wave observatories.

At the heart of the Virgo and LIGO gravitational-wave detectors there are laser interferometers that measure distances with unprecedented sensitivity. While the basic operating principles are simple, they are very complex instruments. Our group develops the main interferometer simulation software used within the community and builds new hardware for shielding the ‘test masses’ from external vibrations. We have just begun preparing the detailed design of the Einstein Telescope (ET), a proposed new gravitational wave observatory in Europe. ET will be capable of delivering new and fascinating science over several decades, but its realisation will require substantial improvements to the most sensitive instruments every built.

This position is part of a European Research Council ‘OmniSens’ consolidator grant, working with Dr Conor Mow-Lowry to develop the ‘6D interferometric inertial isolator’, an ultra-sensitive vibration isolation system (arxiv:1801.01468). The project team will consist of 2 PhD students, 2 post-doctoral research associates, a Systems Engineer, the PI, and part-time contributions from mechanical and electronic technical staff.

Your role

The aim of this project is to apply laser interferometers to vibration isolation, allowing us to provide unprecedented performance improvements and extend the astrophysical reach of gravitational-wave observatories. Several big questions in astronomy can be answered observing the coalescence of heavy black holes deep in the universe. Unfortunately the gravitational-wave signals they create are at low frequencies, between 2 and 20 Hz, and they sit behind a wall of noise. The OmniSens project provides a way forward by combining our new laser-interferometer technology with novel materials and design to reach extreme sensitivities. The instruments and techniques we develop will be applicable to the Virgo and LIGO detectors and they can be foundational elements of the Einstein Telescope.

The position is affiliated with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and the successful candidate will be embedded in the gravitational-wave group at Nikhef also located in Amsterdam.


A PhD in Physics or Engineering, excellent analysis skills, and an analytical mind-set are all required. You must also have good communication skills, including written English language proficiency. You must be capable of independent research that can integrate with the needs of a large research team. A collaborative attitude is strongly desired.

As part of your application, use two examples that demonstrate your experience with: control systems, mechanical design, interferometry, electronics, or vibration isolation. The examples should be evidenced by refereed journal publications in the best case, or some other tangible project output. In your CV, please only list up to 5 of your most relevant publications and provide a link to ORCID (or similar) with a complete list.

Salary Benefits:

A challenging position in a socially involved organisation. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,790 (scale 10)
and a maximum €4,402 (scale 10), depending on your education and experience. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The initial employment contract will affect a period of 1 year, with the possibility of extension.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge

Work Hours:

32 - 40 hours per week


De Boelelaan 1105