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PhD Vacatures

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Nikhef, the national institute for subatomic physics in The Netherlands, is looking for a
PhD student in Detector R&D for gravitational wave detectors

The Nikhef organisation

Nikhef is the national institute for subatomic physics in The Netherlands. At Nikhef, approximately 175 physicists and 75 technical staff members work together in an open and international scientific environment. Together, they perform theoretical and experimental research in the fields of particle and astroparticle physics. The Nikhef institute is a collaboration between five major Dutch universities and the Dutch Foundation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Nikhef participates in large research collaborations, including the ATLAS, LHCb and ALICE experiments at CERN, the KM3NeT neutrino telescope in the Mediterranean, the VIRGO interferometer in Pisa, the Xenon1T dark matter experiment in Gran Sasso, the Pierre Auger cosmic ray observatory in Argentina and the eEDM research programme in Groningen. Nikhef also hosts a group in theoretical physics, and groups for Physics Data Processing and detector R&D, all with good connections to the experimental programs.

The position

For the improvement of the low-frequency sensitivity of future generation gravitational wave detectors, Nikhef is developing a low-noise microelectromechanical system (MEMS) seismometer. A novel anti-spring technique has demonstrated an unprecedented noise floor approaching 1 ng/Hz in the lab. These new sensors should be made more robust and tested in the field alongside proven technologies, to suppress seismic noise in gravitational wave detectors. To this end, a batch of sensors based on a new fabrication process is underway. The performance of these new devices needs verification, and the process flow revised where necessary. In preparation for field tests, the sensors should be individually vacuum packaged.

One of the challenges with this type of sensor is the complex connection with the readout system. Nikhef is developing an integrated circuit (IC) readout solution on a CMOS chip. A front-end prototype is available, and the interface with the MEMS sensor needs to be tested. Because of the strong interconnection between mechanical and electronic design in MEMS, the Ph.D. candidate participates in discussions on system-level design and the integration of different functional blocks.


The Ph.D. candidate has an M.Sc. in applied physics or engineering. The candidate should have an affinity with mechanical design, and prior knowledge on MEMS and microfabrication techniques is preferred. Basic understanding of electronic circuitry is required to work within the readout IC design team. Most importantly, the candidate should possess excellent experimental skills to test and characterize the MEMS sensors and to operate the state-of-the-art seismic isolation systems at Nikhef.

Further information on this position can be obtained from dr. Niels van Bakel, .


The candidate will be employed by the NWO-I-foundation and will obtain the status of junior scientist. He/she will receive a 4 year contract. During this time there is the possibility to stay at CERN for a period of about 1 year. Your gross monthly starting salary will be € 2.346,-, increasing to € 3.007,- in the fourth year. The conditions of employment of the NWO-I-foundation are excellent and can be found on


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