PhD Position in Developing the Alignment Control System for the ET(-Pathfinder) Mirrors
Catholic University of Leuven Institute of Astronomy

The Institute of Astronomy (IoA) of KU Leuven is a young and vibrant research group of some 80 scientists, engineers, and administrative staff, including 6 full-time and 3 part-time professors. The institute is an expertise centre in stellar physics and astrophysical instrumentation, and is active in several international consortia and collaborations, involving telescopes at observatories worldwide and in space. Members of IoA have access to parallel computing facilities at the Flemish Supercomputer Centre. The IoA is responsible for the organisation of the Master of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Advanced Master of Space Studies of the Faculty of Science, and operates the 1.2m Mercator telescope at Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma Observatory, Canary Islands. The institute has a long tradition in instrumental, observational, and theoretical studies of stellar evolution. The Department of Gravitational Waves and Fundamental Physics (GWPF) at the University of Maastricht was established as a new research center in 2019. It consists of 9 tenured professors, of which 6 work on Gravitational waves. GWFP is also a full member of NIKHEF, the Dutch national laboratory for sub-atomic particles. Together, Maastricht University and NIKHEF are leading the construction of ETpathfinder, a low-noise testbed for ET in Maastricht. Funded with about 15 million Euros of capital investment, a consortium of nearly 20 research institutions and universities from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France are collaborating on ETpathfinder, employing cutting edge technology on optics, seismic isolation, vacuum, controls and cryogenic technology.


The goal of this PhD project is to define the optimal control strategy for aligning the mirrors of the ETpathfinder interferometer and, later on, of ET. Specifically, we intend to determine the most efficient and accurate way to sense the interferometer beams, and to develop the required tools for this (e.g. optical lever technology). Furthermore, we will identify the optimal control scheme for the automatic alignment of the interferometer mirrors with minimal impact on strain sensitivity. The activities in this project are a combination of design, analysis, simulations and laboratory experiments, both in the field of optics as well as control systems. It will be carried out partly at the Institute of Astronomy of KU Leuven (Belgium), and partly at ETpathfinder in Maastricht (Netherlands).


  • Master degree in Physics, astrophysics or engineering (or equivalent)
  • Expertise in gravitational wave interferometry  and/or hands-on (optical) lab work is an asset but not a requirement
  • Proficiency in English


  • Fully funded PhD fellowship with a 2-year contract, once renewable with 2 more years after positive evaluation
  • A stimulating, multidisciplinary and international environment
  • A cutting-edge project in an emerging science field with a bright future


To apply for this position, please follow the application tool and enclose:
1) Full CV, with a publication list (if relevant) and contact details of two reference persons who would be prepared to send confidential recommendation letters;
2) A statement of interest (max. one page) 
3) A summary of the research experience (max. 2 pages)

4) Full list of credits and grades of both BSc and MSc degrees (as well as their transcription to English if possible). If you haven’t finished your degree yet, just provide us with the partial list of already available credits and grades

For more information please contact Dr. Gert Raskin, tel.: +32 16 32 33 46, mail: or Dr. Clio Gielen, tel.: +32 16 37 46 28, mail:
You can apply for this job no later than April 09, 2021 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: April 9, 2021
  • Tags: Natuurkunde en Sterrenkunde

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Physicaloxy


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