PhD Position(s) SALTISolutions (Salt Intrusion through Urbanizing Deltas) via EURAXESS

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

Delft, , NL

Job description

SALTISolutions is a multi-disciplinary TTW-funded Perspective Program, led by Prof. Julie Pietrzak TU Delft and carried out in close collaboration with the universities of Twente, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Wageningen and NIOZ.

SALTISolutions will deliver the VirtualDelta, a digital twin of a real Delta, as a management and design instrument for salt-intrusion related questions in deltas worldwide. Increasing salt intrusion caused by human alterations of estuaries and deltas, increased freshwater demand, and climate change threatens freshwater availability in deltas. Freshwater supply is essential for health and human well-being, for ecological integrity of aquatic ecosystems, and for economic interests. An integrated and optimized societal response to salt intrusion challenges demands actions at several levels:

  • On short time scales: operational management tools based on short-term forecasts and available (‘big’) data for freshwater management;
  • On medium time scales: evaluation of effects of infrastructural changes on salt intrusion and, using scenario models, introduction into the society-stakeholder debate. Development of well-designed, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly solutions to salt intrusion based engineering (‘grey’) and nature-based (‘green’) solutions is essential;
  • On long time scales: evaluation of climate-proofness of infrastructure, policies and mitigation measures. Extreme climate-change scenarios require radically new solution pathways.

SALTISolutions’ Virtual Delta brings together advanced models, data-assimilation tools, visualisation methods, stakeholder-interaction tools, and exploratory strategic analyses for delta management at different levels. Scientific challenges and expected scientific breakthroughs include: incorporating multiscale physical processes; understanding impact of natural eco-morphological processes on salt intrusion, and developing forecasting systems and advanced game approaches for stakeholder engagement and decision making. Technology suppliers and end-users are actively involved in SALTISolutions, which will lead to conceptual and operational breakthroughs in freshwater management of deltas.

In the framework of SALTISolutions, TU Delft PhD Candidates will be working on the following topics:

Position #1 TUD00297-A: An advanced 3D salt intrusion model for the Rhine-Meuse Delta
The PhD candidate will work on the development and application of an advanced coastal ocean-delta salt intrusion model, that will form an integral contribution to the Virtual Delta. Worldwide, there is an urgent need for accurate, computationally fast 3D hydrostatic models for salt intrusion studies that are suitable for prediction on multiple time scales. The PhD candidate will work closely with other members of the SALTISolutions program to incorporate new parameterisations of non-hydrostatic physics and nature based solutions. Application of this model will provide important new physical insights into the role of the coupled system on salt intrusion, and advance our understanding of how salt intrusion could be impacted by deepening of estuaries, opening of gates and locks, nature based solutions and climate change. The candidate will explore the role of individual physical mechanisms on salt intrusion in the Rhine-Meuse Delta on intra- and inter-annual time scales. The candidate will work closely with fellow SALTISolutions PhD’s and Post-docs. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Julie Pietrzak and Prof. Dr. Ir. Martin Verlaan.


Position #5 TUD00270 PhD Position Applied Mathematics: Development of the Virtual Delta module to support observing estuarine salinity from space
This position is vacant at faculty EWI and can be found at the TUDelft website: PhD Position Applied Mathematics


  • MSc degree in Civil Engineering, Mathematics, Physical Oceanography, Physical Geography, Earth System Science or related discipline.
  • excellent ability to think conceptually and quantitatively.
  • excellent ability to communicate in English both in speech and in writing.
  • interest in estuarine processes and/or (bio)geomorphological interactions (sediment, hydrodynamics, vegetation).
  • good organisational skills and ability to work independently and in a team.
  • affinity with technical aspects of data processing and numerical modeling.
  • excellent communication skills and a capacity and willingness to interact with the end-users and stakeholders of the research.

Conditions of employment

TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2395 per month in the first year to € 3061 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills. Please visit for more information.

All PhD candidates should be prepared to spend up to a maximum of 15% of their time on activities not directly related to the PhD research. This includes participation to Graduate School courses, an active role in education and other organisational activities.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

Selection process

Application procedure

To apply, please send your motivation letter (approx 1 page), CV and publication list. Make sure to include in your motivational letter (and/or CV) examples of projects in which you successfully demonstrate your skills relevant to this project. We would appreciate if you could also mention when you could start.

Please compile all documents into a single pdf file named ‘TUD00297-A/B/C/D_YourLastname.pdf’ by 1 August 2020 to [email protected].

Please make sure you apply for the right position.

Please note that applications will only be processed if all documents required are compiled into a single pdf document.

A pre-employment screening can be part of the application procedure.

Additional comments

Additional information

For general information about the SALTISolutions program, you can contact Prof.dr. Julie Pietrzak ([email protected]). For detailed information about individual research studies, please contact:

Applications should be received by email by August 1st 2020.

We aim to start these positions on September 1st, but the starting date is flexible to some extent.

For information about the selection procedure, please contact Marloes Heemskerk, HR Advice, email: [email protected].

Web site for additional job details

Offer Requirements

Specific Requirements

Position #2 TUD00297-B : Modelling salt exchange through shipping locks
The PhD candidate will work on the development and application of an advanced non-hydrostatic model, FINLAB developed by Dr. Labeur to investigate and quantify salt intrusion through locks. Man-made restrictions to the free exchange of salt and freshwater along coastal boundaries, such as shipping locks are frequently found in urbanized estuaries. Management of these structures, can drive salt far inland and threaten freshwater supplies, but on slower time scales. During every lock cycle salt is released. Salt intrusion from locks urgently needs to be studied and parameterised for use in computationally efficient 3D hydrostatic models for salt prediction. This project will provide unique insights into salt intrusion through locks, that will be incorporated into the Virtual Delta. The PhD candidate will work closely with other members of the SALTISolutions program to develop new parameterisations of non-hydrostatic physics. The PhD candidate will work closely with fellow SALTISolutions PhD’s and Post-docs. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Dr. ir. Robert Jan Labeur, Prof. Dr. Julie Pietrzak and Dr. M. Duran Matute.

Position #3 TUD00297-C: Integral design and evaluation of estuary-scale, nature-based SALTIsolutions
The PhD candidate will work on the development of nature-based solutions to mitigate salt intrusion, along with benefits for other estuarine functions and values. The leading principle is that salt intrusion will be influenced by changing salt and fresh water mixing patterns. This can be done by either introducing phase lags in the horizontal flow regime (construction of ebb-flood channel loops, longitudinal dams or tidal lagoons), or by enhancing vertical circulations (through increased bed shear stress or landscaping of the estuary bed). In all cases, fundamental insight in the underlying eco-morphological processes is key. Key research questions include the investigation of suitable nature-based mechanisms to modify estuarine mixing processes, the design of such measures in urbanized deltas and the assessment of impacts and benefits in the context of broad sustainability frameworks that go beyond the functional efficiency of isolated engineering measures. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Prof.dr. ir. Stefan Aarninkhof and Prof.dr. Peter Herman.

Position #4 TUD00297-D: Implications of nature-based SALTIsolutions for waterborne logistics
Waterborne transport is an important economic function in deltas and estuaries. Salt intrusion mitigation measures will affect this function in various ways. Changes in current patterns, associated with increased mixing to reduce the impact of salt and fresh water stratifications, will affect nautical safety. Modified ship locking procedures, to reduce the exchange of salt water, will affect the transport capacity of waterways. Shifting sedimentation/erosion patterns, associated with changes in flow and salinity patterns, will affect port accessibility and the cost effectiveness of shipping routes. To incorporate such effects of SALTIsolutions on waterborne logistics in the VirtualDelta, you will connect agent based logistic models with hydro- and morphodynamic models. Key challenge is to parameterise the results of detailed models, and integrate these in larger network models to enable exploratory research. This PhD project will be embedded within the Ports and Waterways section of the Hydraulic Engineering department, within CITG. The PhD candidate will be supervised by Mark van Koningsveld.





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