PhD in Controls on Miocene sediment dispersal in the Roer Valley Graben in the southern Netherlands

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • PhD in Controls on Miocene sediment dispersal in the Roer Valley Graben in the southern Netherlands
  • University Graduate
As part of a joint project, the Department of Earth Sciences  at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and TNO - Geological Survey of the Netherlands seek a highly motivated, high-potential applicant for a PhD position to work within a research project funded by the Geological Survey, entitled “Controls on Miocene sediment dispersal in the Roer Valley Graben in the Southern Netherlands.
Do you want to make a contribution to the energy transition by improving the understanding of subsurface aquifers for water supply, storage and geothermal energy and do you want to work in a diverse team of  geoscientists at both a geological survey and a university? Please apply at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

FTE: 1 - 1

Job description

The Miocene of the Roer Valley Rift System and the surrounding areas consists of a laterally and vertically variable sequence of shallow marine, coastal and fluvial deposits. The sediment distribution within this coastal system was controlled by tectonic, climatic and (glacio)eustatic processes. As a result, the sedimentary deposits  consist of a large number of sequences with bounding unconformities difficult to recognise on simple lithological grounds. Only a detailed reconstruction of the stratigraphic development and a better understanding of mineralogical and physical sediment properties will enable a correct correlation of both water-bearing, sandy units (aquifers), and sealing clay layers (aquitards) in an area that is compartmentalised by neotectonic faulting. This knowledge is relevant for applications in both hydrogeology and geothermal engineering (energy production, thermal energy storage).
The research will consist of the following elements:
  1. Development of a tectono- and seismostratigraphic subdivision of the Miocene sequence, to enhance the understanding of spatial- and temporal accommodation changes on aquifer distribution
  2. A source-to-sink assessment based on dating, provenance, and transport mechanisms, using sedimentary facies, grain size-shape analyses, and Sr-isotopes. This will provide insights into the distribution of hydrological and thermal properties and geothermal potential
  3. Link accommodation effects with tectonic development of the Roer Valley Rift system and establish  a multi-source infill model for the basin, taking into account the source-to-sink aspects
  4. Synthesis
The work will be carried out partly (50%) at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and partly (50%) at TNO-Geological Survey of the Netherlands (Utrecht). Both institutes will jointly supervise the research project.
The advisory team is highly interdisciplinary and includes project leaders Prof. Dr. Ronald van Balen (promotor, VUA) and Dr. Johan ten Veen (co-promotor, TNO). The research will be performed at the Department of Earth Sciences (VUA) and the Geological Survey of the Netherlands (TNO).

Your duties
  • write a PhD thesis consisting of peer-reviewed scientific papers
  • work with colleagues of the project consortium and contributing to project reporting
  • contribute to the bachelor and/or master Earth Sciences teaching programmes of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • follow a  personalized training programme to strengthen skills and fill knowledge gaps. It will supplement and support the project-related research and help achieve long-term career objectives


  • MSc degree in Earth Sciences
  • a strong motivation to do independent PhD research
  • knowledge of sedimentology, tectonics, seismic interpretation and sequence stratigraphy
  • good working knowledge of interpretation software (e.g. Petrel and preferably GIS) and keen interest in 3D mapping
  • experience with and willingness to perform analyses in various lab environments
  • strong quantitative methodological skills
  • proficiency in Dutch – needed to understand and work with the Survey’s subsurface database - and English
  • demonstrable scientific writing, project planning and oral communication potential
  • an enthusiastic mindset as a team player

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,395 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,061 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.
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
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
  • discounts on collective insurances (healthcare- and car insurance)

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.

About the department, institute, project
The Department of Earth Sciences studies the Earth with emphasis on the interactions between the geo-, hydro-, bio-, cryo-, and atmosphere. Our main goal is to improve our understanding of the processes (including anthropogenic) that ultimately shape our planet and affect our daily lives. We offer high-class teaching and carry out our ambitious and innovative research in a dynamic academic environment, supported by excellent research facilities. For furthe information see:

About TNO
TNO - Geological survey of the Netherlands operates the national geoscientific databases DINO and BRO, creates 3-D models of the Dutch subsurface in order to identify resource and geohazard potential, and advises the government on a variety geological matters. Our 3-D models predict the architecture and characteristics of the Dutch subsurface down to depths of about 5 km. Mapping, including supporting research activities, is carried out by the Geomodelling Department. It consists of ca. 60 highly enthusiastic professionals, most of whom have a background in the Earth Sciences. Currently, 3D mapping is being extended into the offshore domain. New scientific insights from the North Sea area form an essential basis for this. Equally importantly, they help us to explain past and predict possible future changes in climate and sea level, and understand their impacts on society.
TNO sponsors PhD research because we consider it an excellent preparation for a career with us.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until January 31, 2021

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

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

Name: R.T. van Balen
Position: professor
Telephone: 0205987324

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