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PhD Position: Laser dynamics aided crack detection with optical fiber sensors

PhD Position in Photonics/Electrical Engineering: laser dynamics aided crack detection with optical fiber sensors

For 50 years, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has stood for freedom, equality and connectedness. These values are strongly present on our campuses, in our students as well as our staff. At the VUB, you’ll find a diverse collection of personalities: pure innovators and especially people who are 100% their authentic selves. With about 3.500 employees, we are the largest Flemish-speaking employer in Brussels, an international city with which we are all too happy to be connected, and around which our four campuses are located.

Position Description

Optical fiber-based sensing stands as a cornerstone measurement and detection technology across diverse fields and disciplines, showcasing remarkable efficacy in applications ranging from structural health monitoring in civil engineering to biomedical sensing in healthcare. The detection of ultrasonic guided waves using optical fibres, which could be key enabling for structural health monitoring of aerospace structures, has so far remained out of reach. A breakthrough in terms of sensitivity and detection speed is required. To address this, we have already explored and successfully demonstrated fiber sensing by ways of laser dynamics. Owing to the fast response time and high-sensitivity of the laser itself, we believe that this approach holds potential for significant advancements in fiber sensor interrogation.

We have recently won a grant for the project named LADYBIRD, funded by the Research Foundation of Flanders (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, FWO). The aim is to put experiment with and investigate the relevance of laser dynamics-based approaches for fiber sensing and apply the technique to the detection of ultrasonic guided waves. In this context, we are looking for an excellent PhD candidate in photonics (duration = 48 months) to join our team.

The research work will include:

  • The construction of an experimental setup for the precise generation of ultrasonic guided waves.
  • Exploration of diverse strategies for interrogating optical fibers utilizing the intricacies of laser dynamics.
  • A rigorous benchmark of the most promising strategies with a focus on sensitivity and speed against established techniques to ascertain performance enhancements.
  • Collaboration with a second doctoral researcher to optimize the architecture of fiber sensors, fostering synergistic innovation and breakthrough advancements.

The candidate will join the Brussels Photonics (B-PHOT) research group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Belgium. Chaired by Prof. Hugo Thienpont, the team composed of more than 45 internationally recognized researchers is widely known for its work in fundamental and applied photonics research covering the entire research cycle from modelling and fabrication, to characterization and Proof-Of-Concept. In the last 20 years, the group has built significant expertise in the field of optical fiber sensing applied to real-life and industrial applications, and in the field of semiconductor laser – including modelling, design and on-chip implementation of new laser structures – but also in nonlinear dynamics and chaos-based applications. The candidate will therefore have the opportunity to contribute to these fields in a multidisciplinary setting

Researcher profile

  • Candidates should possess a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering, Physics, Photonics, Applied Math or related scientific field. Interest in photonic system and light technology are necessary.
  • Knowledge about photonics, photonic integration, sensing, laser physics, nonlinear dynamics or signal processing is a strong plus.
  • Good programming skills are a strong plus. Experience with Matlab, Python or a similar language and environment is a plus. Depending on the skills of the candidate, training can be arranged in the first year of the PhD.
  • Good knowledge of numerical techniques and advanced simulation methods is a plus.
  • Knowledge of photonic circuit simulation tools such as Lumerical FDTD and Interconnect or Photon Design OmniSim and PICWave is a plus.
  • Experience with experimental optical setup and equipment such as optical fiber sensors, fiber interrogators, optical spectrum analysers, laser drivers or amplifiers is a plus.
  • The candidate is expected to be able to carry out the research activities independently and in a critical manner, whilst having excellent communication skills and a positive attitude towards collaboration.
  • Good time management skills are a must, along with the ability to meet tight deadlines and work efficiently under pressure.
  • Proficiency in both spoken and written English (typically CEFR level C1 or equivalent) is required. The candidate will have the opportunity to take evening English classes to improve his/her language skills if needed.
  • The candidates should be prepared to travel in Europe and potentially worldwide e.g. for participation in conferences or research stays at partner institutions.

Candidates that have not yet acquired their master’s degree can apply and participate in the selection procedure, but need to offer proof of registration in their Masters programme and need to have complied with all diploma requirements before starting their position at VUB. The available PhD position has a normal duration of 4 years in Belgium. The progress of the PhD candidate is evaluated every year. The candidate is expected to endorse the educational vision of the university (full text available on the university website).

Female candidates are particularly encouraged to apply.

Required languages: Proficiency in both spoken and written English (typically CEFR level C1 or equivalent) is required.

Our offer

Starting date: September - October 2024.

Salary: approx. €2000 - 2500/month after tax depending on seniority and personal situation

  • A very competitive salary and benefits (holiday allowance, end-year bonus, commuting expense coverage, possibilities to work from home, eco-vouchers, attractive discounts via Benefits@Work, etc.) ;
  • Being part of an international, multicultural team in Brussels, a city known for its international character and central location in Europe;
  • Opportunities for learning new technical and transferable skills;
  • Participation in national and international workshops and conferences;
  • Fully funded research stays abroad (optional);Last but not least, a fantastic topic that is attractive to sci-fiction & pop science!

The work location will be the VUB Humanities, Science and Engineering campus, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium which is easily accessible by public transports, bike or car.

At VUB, your days will be spent in a dynamic, diverse and multilingual environment. Our main campus is set within green oases on the outskirts of the centre of the capital of Flanders, Belgium and Europe. This centre, with all its opportunities, is within your reach by public transport in under half an hour. As an employee of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, you will receive an attractive salary corresponding to one of the pay scales laid down by the government, depending on your experience and academic merits. Hospitalisation insurance and free use of public transport for travel to and from work are standard conditions of employment. If you would rather cycle to work, compensation is also available for that. More information is available at www.vub.be.


Application deadline: May 1st, 2024.

To apply, please send your detailed CV (including a copy of the Master diploma and a Transcript of records), letters of recommendation, any supporting documents demonstrating technical skills (theses or scientific papers), and an application letter to Prof. Martin Virte by e-mail before May 1st, 2024. If no suitable candidate has been found after the deadline, the position will remain open until it is filled.

The selection process will take place in two steps: First, the file of each applicant will be carefully screened and reviewed. Well-suited candidates will be selected on this basis. Second, selected candidates will be invited to a teleconference interview during which they will be asked a broad set of technical and non-technical questions. Finally, all retained candidates will be ranked based on their academic records and their interview, and the candidate ranked 1st will be offered the position.

For more information, please contact Prof. Martin Virte or Dr. Tigran Baghdasharyan.

Apply now!

Application deadline: 1 May 2024

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