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  2. PhD position: Understanding the influence of grain morphology and mesostructure on the initiation and runout of submarine landslides

PhD position: Understanding the influence of grain morphology and mesostructure on the initiation and runout of submarine landslides

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Key takeaways

  • Hours
    38 hr.
  • Salary indication
    Salary gross/monthly
    based on full-time
    € 2,770 - € 3,539
  • Deadline
    15 Mar 2024

We are seeking a full time PhD researcher with interests in granular physics, geomechanics, computer modelling and the discrete element methods (DEM) to join University of Twente (Netherlands) and work on micro- and meso-scale modelling to understand the initiation and dynamics of submarine landslides. 
This project is part of the EU funded Marie Curie Doctoral Network POSEIDON – Improve offshore infrastructure resilience against geohazards towards a changing climate (www.poseidon-dn.eu). The overarching objective of POSEIDON is to develop solutions to improve the resilience of offshore infrastructures. POSEIDON will train 13 researchers within a collaborative multidisciplinary and inter-sectorial network involving 9 universities, 3 research institutes and 4 industrial partners across Europe.

Background and aim:

Hydromechanical phenomena at the pore scale, such as the development of elevated water pressure, and how they are coupled to the soil’s mesostructure, are key to the initiation and runout of submarine landslides. The fact that different regimes, e.g., quasi-static or fast-flowing, of the coupled particle-fluid systems interplay with the material’s particle- and meso-scale structures makes the prediction of submarine granular flows, from initiation to run-out, a scientific as well as a practical challenge.

Fully-resolved simulations of particle-fluid systems can be used to study the macroscopic behaviour of saturated granular materials. The effects of particle shapes and the mesostructure on the hydrodynamic coupling to the pore fluid can all be investigated with the coupled Lattice Boltzmann-Discrete Element Method.

We aim to develop a hydro-micromechanical model of realistic granular soils using fully-resolved direct numerical simulation techniques, focusing on representative volume elements (RVEs). The goal is to understand the role of grain morphology and mesostructure in the avalanching and resting processes during submarine landslides, at various overpressure conditions.


i) Apply an existing LBM-DEM numerical model to simulate the collapse of dense/loose granular masses over an inclined plane subjected to sudden increase of pore pressure;

ii) Incorporate realistic particle shapes in the LBM-DEM model and study the effect of grain morphology hydromechanical behaviour at NGI;

iii) Compare and validate the simulations at point i) and ii) with the pilot-scale laboratory experiments on granular–liquid mixtures at the Free University of Bolzano;

iv) Coarse grain particle scale information into continuum fields and understand the mass/momentum transfer and energy dissipation mechanisms that contribute to the triggering and runout of saturated granular flows.

Expected Results: 

i) A novel hydro-micromechanical numerical tool for modelling saturated granular masses in submarine landslides;

ii) A deep understanding of the interplay between structural properties (e.g., morphology and mesostructure) and pore water pressure on the saturated granular flows.

Planned Secondment(s): 

Dr. Nallathamby Sivasithamparam (NGI, 6 months): integrate particle shape within LBM-DEM.

Dr. Michele Larcher (Free University of Bolzano, 3 months): perform experiments in the inclined channel experimental device on dense/loose granular slopes and compare with simulations.

Your profile

  • Obtained a MSc degree in a relevant field such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering, computational physics, applied mathematics, materials science, or related areas;
  • Good knowledge of fluid-coupled particulate systems in slow and/or fast motion;
  • Sound programming skills in C/C++, Fortran, Python or equivalent;
  • Experience with the discrete element method or other particle-based numerical methods would be advantageous;
  • You are an excellent teammate, able to collaborate intensively with industrial and academic parties in regular meetings and work visits;
  • An appropriate qualification in the English Language together with excellent communication and organizational skills
  • We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, or disability status. Women are encouraged to apply for this position. This is part of the University of Twente’s strategy toward a diverse and inclusive working environment, supportive of excellence in research and education.

Our offer

We offer you a very exciting position in an inspiring multidisciplinary environment. The university offers a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues in which internationalization is an important part of the strategic agenda.

  • We offer a full-time 4-year PhD-position, with excellent mentorship and a stimulating research environment.
  • Collaborations with a dedicated, dynamic research team and external parties from several European countries involved in the POSEIDON project.
  • The gross monthly salary will be ranging from € 2.770,00 (first year), increasing each year up to € 3.539,00 in the fourth year. Salary and associated conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO-NU).
  • You will have a minimum of 232 leave hours in case of full-time employment based on a formal workweek of 38 hours.
  • A full-time employment in practice means 40 hours a week, therefore resulting in 96 extra leave hours on an annual basis.
  • We offer excellent fringe benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, a solid pension scheme, free access to sports facilities and a family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid).
  • The University of Twente is situated on a green and lively campus with lots of facilities for sports and other activities.

Information and application

As a PhD candidate, you will be enrolled in the University of Twente. The Ph.D project will be conducted under the supervision of prof. V. Magnanimo and dr. Hongyang Cheng. An extended Supervisory Committee, including academic and industrial supervisors from The POSEIDON consortium, will guide the candidate during his/her PhD.

Please submit your application before 15 March 2024 via the ‘Apply now’ button, including:

Master students who will graduate in the next coming months are welcome to apply. In that case, please provide an overview of the transcripts that are already available.

The deadline for application is 15 March 2024. The intended starting date is 1 September 2024, at latest.

You are welcome to contact prof. dr. Vanessa Magnanimo (email v. magnanimo@utwente.nl) or dr. Hongyang Cheng (email: h.cheng@utwente.nl) for any questions you might have.

The first round of selection interviews is scheduled few weeks after the closure of the applications and interviews can be held through Microsoft Teams. A second round of interviews may be scheduled if necessary.

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About the organisation

The Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET) engages in education and research of Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering. We enable society and industry to innovate and create value using efficient, solid and sustainable technology. We are part of a ‘people-first' university of technology, taking our place as an internationally leading center for smart production, processes and devices in five domains: Health Technology, Maintenance, Smart Regions, Smart Industry and Sustainable Resources. Our faculty is home to about 2,900 Bachelor's and Master's students, 550 employees and 150 PhD candidates. Our educational and research programmes are closely connected with UT research institutes Mesa+ Institute, TechMed Center and Digital Society Institute.

Want to know more

Magnanimo, V. (Vanessa)

Magnanimo, V. (Vanessa)

Magnanimo, V. (Vanessa)

Do you have questions about this vacancy? Then you can contact Vanessa for all substantive questions about this position and the application procedure. For general questions about working for the UT, please refer to the chatbot.

How to apply

Step 1

When you see a vacancy that appeals to you, you can apply online. We ask you to upload a CV and motivation letter and/or list of publications. You will receive a confirmation of receipt by e-mail.

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Step 2

The selection committee will review your application and you will receive a response within 2 weeks after the vacancy has been closed.

Step 3

1st interview.
The 1st (online or in person) meeting serves as an introduction where we introduce ourselves to you and you to us. You may be asked to give a short presentation. This will be further explained in the invitation.

Step 4

2nd interview.
In the second interview, we will further discuss the job content, your skills and your talents.

Step 5

The offer.
If the conversations are positive, you will be made a suitable offer.

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