PhD Position in Soil-Structure Interaction of Flood Defences

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: 30 Nov 2023

Our faculty has been awarded a large research grant to investigate “Future flood risk management technologies for rivers and coasts” by the Dutch National Science Foundation (NWO). As part of this program we are looking for a PhD candidate for the work package focussing on soil-structure interaction in flood defences.

Traditional raising and widening methods (berms) to strenghten dikes / levees are difficult to realize in densely populated areas. As alternatives, structures within a soil dike can be implemented, e.g. sheet piles, diaphragm walls or piles. It is difficult to evaluate the performance of soil structure (SS) solutions, and the best ways to model and evaluate their performance and reliability. Yet, at the same time SS solutions can enhance robustness (i.e. performance during overloading) and limit sensitivity to local geotechnical weaknesses. It is the aim of this work package to develop methods to model, assess and design soil-structure interaction and to assess the performance, robustness and reliability of structural solutions in earthen flood defences.

The following tasks and activities are foreseen. Firstly, it will be investigated how various SS solutions in dikes can be modelled, using Finite Element Methods (FEM) and where possible analytical approaches. This will commence and continue from previous studies and validated with data from actual projects. A second task is the probabilistic modelling of SS solutions. This is done using probabilistic FEM frameworks for combined soil-structure systems, e.g. for quay walls which need to be further extended to flood defences. The third task  is to assess the performance of SS solutions during the various phases of the life cycle. Particularly during and after the construction phase several problems for buildings near the dike could occur, e.g. due to settlement and deformation. As a case study for the construction phase a hindcast modelling of the Lekdijk dike reinforcement will be performed. During this actual reinforcement with piles in the dike, many houses nearby were damaged. This case will be studied, also utilizing satellite monitoring on deformation of these houses. Also, the models will be applied to assess performance after construction and during the life time (usually several decades) to assess long term performance and reliability. The final task will be to develop design guidance for various SS solutions for a riverine case to characterize their reliability, durability and performance during overloading to enhance robustness.

The research will deliver a knowledge basis for design models for soil structure solutions in dikes, and this will be used to develop guidance for design of soil structure solutions, and frameworks to address the performance of these solutions during the life cycle.

The researcher will also contribute to some deliverables that have been defined at the wider program level (in collaboration with other researchers). The PhD candidate will also participate in and contribute to program activities such as excursions, meetings, summer schools etc. The candidate will collaborate with a number of private and public organizations that have expressed interest in this research and potentially some of the research activities will be performed at and with these organizations.

The candidate has:

  • A Master of Science (MSc) diploma in civil or geo-engineering or a much related field;
  • Experience with (numerical) modelling of soils and / or structures and probabilistics;
  • An interest in flood risk and flood defences.

The candidate is also a team-player and can work independently. The candidate must be confident and professional to work with stakeholders, also those outside the university.

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 .

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 sport memberships, 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.

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!

The Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEG) is committed to outstanding international research and education in the field of civil engineering, applied earth sciences, traffic and transport, water technology, and delta technology. Our research feeds into our educational programmes and covers societal challenges such as climate change, energy transition, resource availability, urbanisation and clean water. Our research projects are conducted in close cooperation with a wide range of research institutions. CEG is convinced of the importance of open science and supports its scientists in integrating open science in their research practice. The Faculty of CEG comprises 28 research groups in the following seven departments: Materials Mechanics Management & Design, Engineering Structures, Geoscience and Engineering, Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Transport & Planning, Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management.

Click here  to go to the website of the Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences.

The supervisory team consists of dr. Ronald Brinkgreve (CEG, geo-engineering), prof. Bas Jonkman (CEG hydraulic engineering). For more information about this vacancy, please contact  

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before 15 October 2023 via the application button and upload your motivation (max. 1 page) and CV. In your motivation please elaborate on your interest, qualifications and envisaged contributions to the project.

  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • A pre-Employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.

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