PhD Student

Last application date
Sep 20, 2020 23:59
LA20 - Department of Environment
Employment category
Doctoral fellow
Limited duration
Occupancy rate
Vacancy Type
Research staff

Job description

We invite enthusiastic candidates to apply for a position as doctoral (PhD) researcher during a full time, fixed term appointment for 4 years, annually renewable after positive evaluation. The PhD student will be appointed at Ghent University's Department of Environment, at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering.



The doctoral research will be conducted in the framework of the Ghent University Interdisciplinary Research Project 'Working the land, searching the soil: a geophysical framework for diachronic land-use studies'. Through an interdisciplinary approach this project aims to redress current understanding of Neolithic land-use by providing insights into human-environment interactions at different timescales in complex pedological environments. The elusive forms of prehistoric land-use that define this period are characterized mainly by subtle soil variations, which remain difficult to grasp through geophysical or even traditional field methods. Aimed at a robust basis for investigating land-use of pioneer farmers in the Low Countries, this research equally aims to offer a future-oriented methodological basis for soil and environmental studies. Hereby, the novelty value of the project relates to integrating fine-grained geophysical soil information at a regional scale to enhance interpretive frameworks for prehistoric archaeology, and for geophysical approaches to environmental studies ranging from pollutant mapping to agricultural soil management.



Your PhD will be conducted within the Earth/Environmental Science leg of this project, which is driven by two key objectives. The first objective is to characterize the geophysical properties of governing soil types in Flanders. By creating a detailed inventory of these property variations, the aim is to provide a flexible and application-oriented geophysical base map for environmental soil studies. The second objective is to model geophysical responses of a broad range of natural and anthropogenic soil variations. By identifying, fine-tuning and combining appropriate transfer functions and integrating these into forward modelling procedures, the aim is to develop a toolkit to allow evaluating the survey potential of commonly deployed geophysical sensors. This will effectively streamline survey strategizing and data interpretation for a suite of near-surface applications. Outcomes of your research will be fed into the archaeological leg of the project, where these will be translated to managerial tools, and drive geophysical investigation of two Neolithic test sites in the Belgian-Dutch sand and loess area.



Your role in this project will be focused on geophysical soil characterization, and researching adaptive modelling procedures for predicting the influence of specific soil variations on environmental sensor observations. As part of an interdisciplinary project, involving two faculties, you will engage and collaborate with (international) partners and stakeholders in a flexible and dynamic work environment. You collaborate most closely with the research team at the Department of Environment, and a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Archaeology, appointed to the archaeological leg of the project. Outcomes of your work should lead to internationally peer reviewed publications. Successful completion of the PhD research will lead to the obtainment of a doctoral degree in Bioscience Engineering.

Ghent University is an equal opportunity employer and prohibits discrimination and harassment of any kind. We are strongly committed to the principle of equal employment opportunity for all employees and to achieving a diverse research and working environment.



Tentative starting date: November 2020.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Philippe De Smedt (Department of Environment, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering) Co-supervisors: Prof. Dr. Ir. Wim Cornelis (Department of Environment, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering); Prof. Dr. Philippe Crombé (Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Arts & Philosophy)

Profile of the candidate

Background and experience

  • You are a motivated individual with existing training and a master’s degree in (Environmental/Earth) Science/Engineering.


Scientific knowledge and skills

  • You are able to engage practically with applied research in soil science, geophysical prospecting and data analysis.
  • You have a well-founded background in scientific programming
  • You are willing to conduct experiments in the lab and do fieldwork.


Personal knowledge and skills

  • A strong interest in interdisciplinary science, related to the research topic
  • Excellent interpersonal skills to collaborate with teammates from different backgrounds and with different tasks.
  • Good oral and written communication skills in English are strictly required.
  • Organizational skills, and a responsive, result-oriented attitude.
  • Willingness to travel internationally

How to apply

The application must be sent via email to as a single PDF file, with the subject line mentioning “IRP-PhD”. Final closing date is September 20th 2020 (23h59). As applications will be reviewed regularly prior to the deadline, early application is recommended.

The application has to include:

1) Cover Letter (max. 1 page).

This should include your contact details and motivation for applying for this position. It is an opportunity to introduce yourself and highlight the key reasons why you should be considered for the role, taking into account the required skills.


2) Selection Criteria (max. 0.5 pages).

A statement addressing to which extent the criteria detailed in ‘job profile’ have been met. This will assist the Selection Committee in determining whether you have the relevant qualifications, knowledge/skills, experience and personal qualities.


3) Resume or Curriculum Vitae (max. 2 pages), covering the following areas:

  • educational qualifications and professional affiliations that detail the full title of the qualification, year awarded and title of the institution attended;
  • employment history in chronological order, starting with current position and specifying dates of employment, position title, name of employer, main duties and achievements;
  • research fields and current interests, and – if applicable – publications and awards;
  • name and contact details (address, telephone, e-mail) of one referee, preferably your supervisor, manager or head of organisational unit closely associated with your current work.


4) Transcript of the required degree (or interim document if pending).