PhD position Cosmology (1.0 FTE)


Faculty of Science and Engineering


University of Groningen

Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen enjoys an excellent international reputation as a dynamic and innovative institution of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Flexible study programmes and academic career opportunities in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 32,000 students and researchers alike to develop their own individual talents. As one of the best research institutions in Europe, the University of Groningen has joined forces with other top universities and networks worldwide to become a truly global centre of knowledge, situated in the vibrant city of Groningen in the north of The Netherlands.

Job description

The Van Swinderen Institute (VSI) of the Faculty of Science and Engineering has an opening for a PhD candidate working under supervision of Assistant Professor Daan Meerburg.

The main focus of the PhD candidate will be aspects of 21 cm cosmology. In particular, the PhD student will be part of the analysis group working on the REACH (Radio Experiment for the Analysis of Cosmic Hydrogen) experiment. To be built in the Karoo radio reserve in South Africa, REACHs primary goal is to measure the 21 cm monopole signal around cosmic dawn (redshift 15-30), when the first stars started to reionize our Universe. The work will involve modeling and estimation of systematics that could limit a detection of the cosmological signal. The work is timely and relevant in light of the recent claimed detection by the EDGES experiment, which requires independent confirmation. Modeling will involve building sky models based on existing observations and implementing systematics such as point sources, ground plane and achromatic beam effects. Estimation will be dominantly numerical and will likely require modern applications of machine learning and Bayesian inference techniques. The core of the analysis working group is based in Cambridge, and the PhD student is expected to interact with members of this group on a weekly basis.

In addition of REACH related work, the PhD applicant will work on theoretical applications (broadly defined) of 21 cm cosmology. This work will be in close to collaboration with members of the nearby Kapteyn Institute who are directly involved in several 21 cm experiments, such as LOFAR/AARTFAAC and Nenufar. Specifically the last experiment aims to measure the fluctuations in the 21 cm field from redshifts in the same window as REACH. Theoretical applications might also involve work related to the proposed PUMA (Packed Ultra-wideband Mapping Array), an experiment aimed to measure 21 cm radio signal from structure between redshift 1 and 6.

Meerburg’s group consists of 2 PhD students (Alba Kalaja and Benjamin Beringue (Cambridge)) and one postdoc (Giorgio Orlando). It is likely the group will expand with one or two additional PhD students before 1 September 2020, working on topics in collaboration with members of both Kapteyn and VSI, which strengthens the connection between the institutes. Besides involvement in REACH, Meerburg is a senior member of the Simons Observatory and CCATp, two experiments to be built in the Atacama desert in Chile to measure the cosmic microwave background.


The successful candidate for this PhD position will have the following qualifications/qualities:

• a Master’s degree in Astrophysics / Theoretical Physics / Mathematics / Computer Science or related areas
• knowledge of basic cosmology; advanced cosmology is considered an asset
• knowledge of at least one programming code (Python preferred but not limited to)
• very good knowledge of written and spoken English; knowledge of Dutch is an asset
• very good communication skills, so as to function as an excellent team player in this collaborative effort
• enthusiasm and initiative to perform creative research in an interdisciplinary setting.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

• a salary of € 2,325 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 2,972 gross per month in the fourth and final year
• a full-time position (1.0 FTE)
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
• an 8.3% year-end bonus.

The position is offered for four years. Each successful candidate will first be offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty. The conditions of employment are available at the University of Groningen website under Human Resources:

Job Application

You may apply for this position until 15 April 11:59 pm / before 16 April 2020 Dutch local time by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Applications for the position should include:
• motivation letter
• curriculum vitae (name, address, degree(s) with transcript(s) of grades, research experience, educational and employment history, etc.)
• name and (email) address of two professional references
• vacancy number of this position.

We are an equal opportunity employer that values diversity. We have adopted an active policy to increase the number of female scientists across all disciplines of the university. Therefore, women are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

Daan Meerburg, Assistant Professor

In your application, please always include the job opening ID 220105

Digital application form