Research Associate in Development of Instrumentation for Gravitational Wave Observatories
VU University of Amsterdam Faculty of Science

Do you have experience in experimental physics or engineering, and would you like to work in a multidisciplinary team to develop and build the new generation of large-scale gravitational wave detectors? Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.


FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

We have a vacancy for a Post Doctoral Research Associate at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to develop instrumentation for gravitational wave observatories.

At the heart of the Virgo and LIGO gravitational-wave detectors there are laser interferometers that measure distances with unprecedented sensitivity. While the basic operating principles are simple, they are very complex instruments. Our group develops the main interferometer simulation software used within the community and builds new hardware for shielding the ‘test masses’ from external vibrations. We have just begun preparing the detailed design of the Einstein Telescope (ET), a proposed new gravitational wave observatory in Europe. ET will be capable of delivering new and fascinating science over several decades, but its realisation will require substantial improvements to the most sensitive instruments every built.

This position is part of a European Research Council ‘OmniSens’ consolidator grant, working with Dr Conor Mow-Lowry to develop the ‘6D interferometric inertial isolator’, an ultra-sensitive vibration isolation system (arxiv:1801.01468). The project team will consist of 2 PhD students, 2 post-doctoral research associates, a Systems Engineer, the PI, and part-time contributions from mechanical and electronic technical staff.

Your role

The aim of this project is to apply laser interferometers to vibration isolation, allowing us to provide unprecedented performance improvements and extend the astrophysical reach of gravitational-wave observatories. Several big questions in astronomy can be answered observing the coalescence of heavy black holes deep in the universe. Unfortunately the gravitational-wave signals they create are at low frequencies, between 2 and 20 Hz, and they sit behind a wall of noise. The OmniSens project provides a way forward by combining our new laser-interferometer technology with novel materials and design to reach extreme sensitivities. The instruments and techniques we develop will be applicable to the Virgo and LIGO detectors and they can be foundational elements of the Einstein Telescope.

The position is affiliated with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and the successful candidate will be embedded in the gravitational-wave group at Nikhef also located in Amsterdam.


A PhD in Physics or Engineering, excellent analysis skills, and an analytical mind-set are all required. You must also have good communication skills, including written English language proficiency. You must be capable of independent research that can integrate with the needs of a large research team. A collaborative attitude is strongly desired.

As part of your application, use two examples that demonstrate your experience with: control systems, mechanical design, interferometry, electronics, or vibration isolation. The examples should be evidenced by refereed journal publications in the best case, or some other tangible project output. In your CV, please only list up to 5 of your most relevant publications and provide a link to ORCID (or similar) with a complete list.

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organisation. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,790 (scale 10)
and a maximum €4,402 (scale 10), depending on your education and experience. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The initial employment contract will affect a period of 1 year, with the possibility of extension.
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
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge

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 endeavour – 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 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 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.

The Faculty of Science

The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.


Nikhef is the Dutch national institute for subatomic physics, where approximately 175 physicists and 75 technical staff members work together in an open and international scientific environment, performing theoretical and experimental research in the fields of particle and astroparticle physics, including gravitational-wave observation. Nikhef’s research collaborations include the VIRGO interferometer in Pisa; the ATLAS, LHCb and ALICE experiments at CERN; the KM3NeT neutrino telescope in the Mediterranean; the XENONnT dark matter experiment in Gran Sasso; and the Pierre Auger cosmic ray observatory in Argentina. NIKHEF is located in Amsterdam.

Gravitational waves 

The gravitational-waves research team at Nikhef consists of about 40 researchers distributed equally among research staff and junior scientists (postdocs and PhD students). The group’s activities span a wide range of subjects. We contribute to the Virgo observatory near Pisa by analysing data and making inferences about the astronomical sources, and by participating in upgrades and on-site commissioning to improve the detector’s sensitivity. Looking to the future, we have research and development programmes for next-generation instruments, both for the European underground observatory, the Einstein Telescope, and for the ESA large science mission, LISA. We are also performing geological analysis at the Belgian-Dutch-German border region, a potential site for the Einstein Telescope.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until August 15, 2020. 

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

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

Name: Conor Mow-Lowry
Position: Associate Professor of Physics

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