PhD Position Mars Reveal: dynamic support of the Tharsis Region revealed by gravity-rate observations

Research / Academic

Observations done by InSight have resulted in new information about the Martian lithosphere and confirmed that the core is liquid. This new evidence raises the question: Is the planet still geologically active? The largest volcanic complex in our solar system can be found on Mars. After fifty years of orbiting satellites it is still unclear if the Tharsis complex is dynamically supported by a mantle plume. The goal of this PhD project is to investigate the possibility of active mantle plume dynamics underneath the Tharsis Region by using satellite gravity-rate observations.
To prepare for this work, a state-off-the-art lithosphere/geodynamical model of the Martian mantle and crust will be developed and inserted in a 3D geodynamical code (ASPECT) to study the plume-lithosphere interactions. Rigorous testing and development scheme is designed to fully understand the model results. The numerical modelling will be completed by a thorough parameter search of the Martian mantle-lithosphere structure and various plume scenarios will be tested.
Additionally, we propose to search in the past 50 years of satellite gravity data, the secular gravity change signature of the plume uplift at the Tharsis Rise. This will be done by a re-analysis of all available tracking data with a TU Delft-developed astrodynamical toolbox Tudat.
The project builds on an earlier Research in our group that developed a model based on lithosphere flexure, gravity field modelling and mantle convection studies. This model can be extended to simulate realistic interior structures and calculates decade long changes in the gravity field and surface of Mars. Observations of several Mars orbiting satellites should be compiled for a long period gravity change map, to validate the geophysical model. The PhD project is supported by a team of international scientists with expertise on observations and modelling of Mars. Funding includes computer and necessary software and travel to conferences as well as research visits to project      


  • Obtained or soon to be obtain MSc degree (or an equivalent degree which allows you to start a PhD) in physics, astrodynamics, engineering, earth or planetary science, or a closely related field
  • Strong background in numerical modelling and programming
  • Proficient in English. For information please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.
  • Experience in data analysis and Python is welcome but not a requirement.

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.

Salary Benefits:

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 Adviceto assist you with your relocation.


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