PhD in quantum and machine learning modeling for nuclear reactors

Job description

At the intersection of the Material Science and Technology research group and the Center for Molecular Modeling, we study in a computational way the properties of molecules and crystals. Emphasis is on predicting properties that cannot be easily obtained by experiments, and on topics where knowledge of these properties can help experimental or applied researchers.

The current position is part of large international effort on developing MYRRHA, a next-generation nuclear fission reactor.

You will examine the stability of polonium-containing molecules in conditions relevant for this reactor. This will be done by a combination of quantum chemistry, density functional theory and machine learning. Method development will be needed to achieve highly accurate predictions for molecules that are too large for allowing the direct use of the most accurate simulation methods.

You will have access to the computing resources of the VSC (Flemish Supercomputing Center,

You will interact with the teams that are working on this topic experimentally, to understand which computed information they need in order to analyse their experiments in a more unambiguous way.

Additional information on the scientific context of this topic can be downloaded from .

The position is fully funded and you have the same benefits as Ghent University employees. You will be supervised by prof. Stefaan Cottenier and his team.

Job profile

  • You have a master degree in physics, chemistry, materials engineering, engineering physics, chemical engineering. or related areas
  • You have some experience about at least one of these three topics: quantum chemistry calculations, density functional theory, machine learning. You have at least an interest and a desire to learn for the other topics on which you do not have experience yet.
  • A working knowledge of Python is an asset. The same holds for working in a linux environment and for working in a supercomputer environment.
  • Good oral and written communication skills in English are required.

About 10% of your time is to be spent to supporting teaching activities at Ghent University.

The position start date is as soon as possible after the end of the application period. Given the current covid prevention rules, the details about when and how to start the work will be negotiated with the selected candidate.

How to apply

For informal inquiries, please contact Stefaan Cottenier (

Your application must include :

  • 1. A letter in which you explain why you are motivated for this position, and why you have the proper skills to bring this research one step further. Please avoid standard motivation letters, tailor it to this specific case.
  • 2. A link to a short video (min 1 minute, max 5 minutes) where you explain your favourite science topic to an imaginary broad audience. Don't worry about the technical quality -- a video shot with your smartphone is fine. Upload it to a cloud drive (Google Drive, Onedrive,...) and share the link in your application, or send it via (for instance) together with your application.
  • 3. A standard CV, with emphasis on your performance in the last 2 years of your education and - if applicable - on your work experience. A link to your master thesis (in whatever language it is) is appreciated.
  • 4. The names and contact details of at least 2 referees. Explain why these people are suited to give a balanced opinion about you. No recommendation letters are needed at this stage.

Applications should be sent to Stefaan Cottenier (, with the mandatory subject line 'polonium PhD application'.

Selected candidates will be invited for an online interview. Deadline April 2nd