PhD position on Multi-scale modelling of aquitard hydraulic conductivity (0.8 - 1.0 FTE)

Utrecht University

Utrecht, Netherlands 🇳🇱


We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate who is interested in working on advanced hydrogeological modelling at the boundary between theory and practice. You will work in close cooperation with scientists from the faculty of Geosciences at Utrecht University and TNO Geological Survey of The Netherlands.  
As a PhD candidate you will concentrate your research on the hydrogeologic and hydraulic characterization of aquitards and confining layers at multiple scales, with specific focus on the shallow subsoil of the Netherlands. TNO Geological Survey of the Netherlands (TNO-GSN) collects and manages the geo-scientific information of the subsurface of the Netherlands. An important task of TNO-GSN is to built, maintain and update 3D (hydro)geological models of the subsurface, i.e. GeoTOP (voxel model for the upper 50 m), and REGIS II (layer-model for the upper 500 m, focusing on groundwater management). To arrive at hydraulic properties of aquifers and aquitards, TNO-GSN uses information from borelogs, core samples and stochastic simulation and upscaling techniques.

Together with Utrecht University, TNO-GSN has initiated a project to improve the hydraulic parameterization of shallow aquitards in the GeoTOP and REGIS II models. The focus is on aquitards because of their importance in groundwater protection and groundwater response to global change as well as larger difficulties to estimate their hydraulic conductivity. In this project you will upgrade the current methods employed by TNO-GSN to estimate aquitard properties by including the results of advanced pumping tests and groundwater head observations around groundwater pumping stations. You will also investigate how the hydrogeologic and hydraulic properties of aquitards vary across the Netherlands using data from core to local scale.


We are looking for a candidate with:

  • a Master’s degree in Earth Sciences, Hydrology, Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering or a related field;
  • demonstrable enthusiasm for hydrogeology, groundwater science and modelling;
  • interest in stochastic hydrology and familiarity with geostatistical methods is desirable;
  • affinity with a scripting or programming (e.g., in Python);
  • the willingness and ability to work in a team of scientists;
  • English oral and writing skills; you should be able to demonstrate English language proficiency. We require a qualification English at C1 level (comparable to level 3 of the Lecturer Assessment Grid) or you should be willing to obtain this level by training;
  • preferably (at least) basic Dutch oral skills or a willingness to master the Dutch language; 
  • a valid Certificate of Conduct at the start of and during your full contract period is a prerequisite for this position.


You will be offered a full-time PhD position, initially for one year with extension to four years in total upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period. A 0.8 FTE position during 5 years is also possible.
The gross salary starts with €2,395 per month in the first year and increases to €3,061 per month in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch Universities) for a full-time employment.

Aditionally, you will receive a holiday allowance of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3%. Utrecht University also has an appealing package of terms of employment, including options for a good work-life balance (a good arrangement for leave, among other things), possibilities for development and an excellent pension scheme. More information on working at Utrecht University can be found here.

Over de organisatie

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.
Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth’s core to its surface, including man’s spatial and material utilisation of the Earth – always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the Faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

The Department of Physical Geography excels in research and education on BSc, MSc and PhD level. Our research focuses on processes, patterns and dynamics of Earth’s continental and coastal systems, and on the interaction between these processes. This knowledge is essential for the sustainable management of our planet and to guarantee the availability of resources for the next generations. The department hosts an active, supportive and informal PhD community of about 40 people working on a wide variety of topics. More information about the department Physical Geography is available on

TNO Geological Survey of the Netherlands has developed four models for the shallow subsurface (up to 500 metres deep) based on the hundreds of thousand drillings and cone penetration tests in the DINO database. TNO-GSN also develops models for the deep subsurface up to a depth of 4 to 5 thousand metres. Subsurface models use all the available knowledge to produce the most faithful representation possible of the subsurface. They predict strata structure and characteristics, including the gases and fluids present. The models integrate basic geological information and by linking to other databases enable us to answer specific questions, like the risks of subsurface intervention, the construction of infrastructure above and below the ground, production of gravel, sand, clay, limestone and groundwater, subsidence predictions or the use of geothermal heating. Based on collected data and knowledge, these subsurface (3D) models are parameterized with hydrological parameters and are regularly updated, the most important being GeoTOP and REGIS II. These models are often used for the subsurface schematization of groundwater models. The results of TNO-GSN data collection and research are stored in databases which are freely accessible to the public (

Aanvullende informatie

For more information about this position, please contact:
Prof. M.F.P. Bierkens, via [email protected] or Dr. Willem Jan Zaadnoordijk, via [email protected].


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation via the ‘apply’ button below.

Applications should include the names of at least two referees (with e-mail addresses and phone numbers). The interview dates are expected to take place in October, intended starting date preferably November/December.

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