PhD Positions in Astrophysics
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 KU Leuven’s Gravitational Wave Centre is a research initiative aimed at investigating the implications of recent advances in theoretical high-energy physics for gravitational wave observations and astrophysics more generally. The Centre also acts as a platform to strengthen and coordinate nationwide collaboration on gravitational wave science for Belgium’s participation in the LISA mission and the Einstein Telesope ground-based observatory exploring the gravitational universe.


Throughout the Universe, the dynamics and chemical evolution of spiral galaxies like our Milky Way are largely controlled by the lives and deaths of stars with masses many times that of the Sun. The evolution of these massive stars, in turn, is highly regulated by their multiplicity and by the mass and angular momentum exchanged through binary interaction, and by the huge amounts of mass expelled from their surfaces by means of powerful starlight-driven wind outflows. These fundamental properties critically determine how these massive stars live and die and control the nature and properties of the compact remnants – neutron stars and black holes – that are left behind. In close binaries, these compact objects may merge, producing intense bursts of gravitational waves (GW) that can be detected by current interferometers.  In this broad context, various large observational, theoretical and instrumental projects have been undertaken at KU Leuven to obtain new constraints on the evolution of gravitational wave progenitors and to pave the way towards even more sensitive GW observations by future ground-based and spaceborne GW interferometers.

The ERC-CoG MULTIPLES project (PI: Sana) aims at constraining the multiplicity properties of massive stars across their entire life cycle, as well as to investigate the origin of close massive binaries and to characterize the nature and frequency of post-interaction products in populations of massive stars through multi-techniques observations of massive stars. This specific call will focus on optical spectroscopy acquire through various facilities as well as on a possible kick off of the Magellanic Clouds MultiEpoch 4MOST public survey (proposal submitted), which aims at obtaining systematic multiplicity statistics of intermediate- and high-mass stars in the Magellanic Clouds. 

The Vacancy

Through an ERC-CoG and other fundings, the KU Leuven Institute of Astrophysics is advertising 4 PhD and 2 Postdoc positions. The selected candidates will join the broad KU Leuven’s effort to unravel the physics and evolution of gravitational wave progenitors as part of an international network of collaborators. The funding for these 6 positions is already secure, but more positions may be available depending on the interest and quality of the applicants, and on the results of upcoming funding applications. Here we describe the MULTIPLES-PD position. Here the MULTIPLES-PhD position is described

The multiplicity of massive binariesThe selected candidates will join the team of Prof Sana to unravel the multiplicity of population of massive stars in the framework of the ERC-CoG MULTIPLES project. Tasks encompass among other: collect, reduce and/or organize multi-wavelength datasets covering hot massive stars across range of metallicity environments, develop, use and/or adapt the necessary quantitative techniques to analyze and interpret large amount of spectroscopic data, retrieve the underlaying properties of populations of single and binary stars and to unravel their evolutionary history, including strong involvement in the 4MOST Magellanic Clouds Multiplicity Campaign (if approved). Theoretically or computationally inclined candidates with interest in binary evolution, retrieval methods and/or statistical analysis of large samples are welcome to apply as well. 


PhD applicants must hold a M.Sc. degree in physics, astrophysics or mathematics or else own an equivalent diploma. The degree must be dated at the latest one month before the position can be taken up. Expertise in astrophysics is an asset but not a requirement. Similarly, prior expertise in massive stars, observations, stellar evolution, stellar winds, binaries and/or instrumentation is an asset but not a requirement.


The selected PhD student will be offered a 2-year contract, once renewable with 2 more years after positive evaluation. The salary will be commensurate to the standard scale for PhD students in Belgium; it includes social and medical insurance as well as pension rights. The foreseen starting date is October 1st, 2021 but can be negotiated. 

The successful PhD applicant will have to register at, and comply with, the regulations of the Arenberg Doctoral School of the Leuven University. Good command of the English language is a requirement to be approved by the doctoral school. The successful PhD applicant will follow a doctoral programme including personal training in management, science communication, and teaching. As part of the doctoral requirements, the students will have to take up a teaching task of at maximum 4 hours per week in one of the Bachelor (in Dutch) or Master (in English) programmes. PhD students at IoA are also required to perform at least one Mercator observing run of 10 nights per year for the pooled IoA long-term monitoring programmes. 


The application package should contain:
  • (i) a curriculum vitae, with a publication list if relevant;
  • (ii) a statement of interest (max. 1 page); 
  • (iii) a summary of previous research experience (e.g., research project and master thesis; max. 3 pages text and up to 2 pages of figures)
  • (iv) a list of all master courses with their number of study points and the individual scores obtained, as well as the yearly averages. 
Applicants must also provide the names and contact details of two references who are prepared to send confidential recommendation letters should they be requested to do so. The short-listed applicants will be invited for an interview (live or via videoconference depending on the distance and sanitary conditions).
Further information on the position and on the project may be obtained by contacting the promotor Prof. Hugues Sana ( / ) or by phone (+32-16-32 33 46). You may also contact Dr. Clio Gielen for questions.  tel.: +32 16 37 46 28, mail:

The application material should be submitted through the KU Leuven’s Job portal at the latest by April 04, 2021. Applications that do not strictly follow the application guidelines may not be properly processed and may therefore be lost. Members of minorities and underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply.

You can apply for this job no later than April 04, 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 4, 2021
  • Tags: Natuurkunde en Sterrenkunde

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