PhD position: optimization of volunteer emergency response

Updated: 2 months ago
Deadline: ;

Do you have a master in operations research, mathematics or similar? Do you want to apply your skills to optimize emergency response? Please apply at the department of Operations Analytics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. 


Job description

Reducing emergency response times is of paramount importance, and traditional emergency services can be helped by volunteers that are dispatched via a smartphone app. Such community first responder (CFR) systems are already commonly used to send resuscitation-trained volunteers to cardiac arrest patients, and may in the near future also be used for other emergencies. In this unique project you work closely with CFR systems, ambulance providers, firefighters, red cross and others.

In this PhD project you will develop methodologies and algorithms to ensure CFR systems operate in the most efficient and effective way. This includes

  • modeling the effectiveness of such systems in relation to to the number of volunteers
  • the spatial optimization of where to recruit volunteers 
  • developing alerting strategies: which volunteers should get an alert? Should we alert many immediately, or build in a time lag?
  • How to best spend a training budget to improve the skills of some of the existing volunteers
  • optimal volunteer task diversification: which volunteers do you instruct to travel directly to the incident and which ones need to pick up equipment first?

In the models you will develop, stochasticity plays an important role, as both volunteer locations and whether or not they will accept their task are uncertain. Techniques may include mathematical optimization, simulation and machine learning. 

  • A research master's degree in Operations Research, Business Analytics, Mathematics, Industrial engineering, Computer Science or related field. This is a master’s degree of 2 years (120 ECTS) with a focus on research and research methodology.
  • Programming skills
  • Proficiency in written and spoken English (C1)
  • Proficiency in Dutch is an advantage because of our Dutch project partners

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The PhD candidate can rely on the intensive supervision offered by SBE’s leading researchers in the field. The School provides opportunities to attend conferences, and meet other international researchers, The prospects for the School’s doctoral graduates on the labor market are excellent, both inside and outside the academic world. The PhD candidate will receive a salary The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts to € 3.226 gross per month during the first year and increases to € 3.539 gross per month during the last year, based on full-time employment.

The appointment will initially be for one year. After satisfactory evaluation, the contract will be extended for a total duration of three years.
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,
  • solid pension scheme (ABP),
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 31,000 students. We employ over 5,000 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

School of Business and Economics
The School of Business and Economics (SBE) provides high-quality education and excellent research in business administration and economics with a focus on contributing to the social, economic and ecological challenges of our time. Whether it is the use of robots in society or big data, labour market participation or flexibility in the labour market, traffic jams or the housing market, flash crashes in the stock market or choice behaviour in gambling, leadership or change management: we believe in goal-oriented scientific research and understand that progress in academics, the business community and society is achieved through cooperation, openness and social responsibility.

At SBE, all of our highly-motivated colleagues work together closely in a stimulating, dynamic and international environment to achieve our collective goal of encouraging society to make informed choices. Approximately 7,000 Bachelor’s and Master’s students and 1,700 executive students are enrolled at the School, and employs roughly 600 people.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until


Submitting a diploma is part of the application process.

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: dr. Caroline Jagtenberg
Position: Assistant Professor, department Operations Analytics

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