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PhD position - Optical design of gravitational wave interferometers and their extraction optics

PhD position - Optical design of gravitational wave interferometers and their extraction optics

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) invites applications for outstanding PhD candidates in the field of photonics engineering.

The candidate will join the Brussels Photonics (B-PHOT) research group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Belgium. Chaired by Prof. H. Thienpont, the team composed of more than 70 internationally recognized researchers and experts is widely known for its work in fundamental and applied photonics research and innovation covering the entire research cycle from modelling and fabrication, to characterization, Proof-Of-Concept demonstration and optics manufacturing. In the last 20 years, the group has built a significant expertise in the field of freeform optics – including modelling, design, prototyping, replication and metrology. The candidate will therefore have the opportunity to contribute to the field in a vivid, fruitful and high-tech environment.

Position Description

The research activity of the PhD will be focused on the optical design of gravitational wave (GW) interferometers as well as on the advanced fabrication of the mirrors in those GW interferometers. A first goal will consist in optimizing the optical configuration in GW interferometry by combining the optical functions with aberration control directly on single surfaces, rendering the complete system more compact with fewer individual potential points-of-failure, by applying novel direct design methods alleviating the need for local minimum sensitive iteration based optimizations. A second goal will consist in prototyping the designed freeform extraction optics and a proof-of-concept demonstration of their improved sensitivity compared to their currently used counterparts.

The B-PHOT research group at VUB (M. Vervaeke, J. Van Erps, F. Duerr, H. Thienpont) is actively involved in the development of the future observatory Einstein Telescope and its R&D facility ETpathfinder. During the PhD, a collaboration is foreseen with partners of the ET Pathfinder consortium (Belgium-The Netherlands-Germany). The open position is within the iBOF network of excellence “Unlocking the Dark Universe with Gravitational Wave Observations: from Quantum Optics to Quantum Gravity”, a concerted initiative involving the VUB, KULeuven, UGent and UAntwerpen to boost gravitational wave research in Flanders.

The appointment starts preferably on October 1st, 2021. The duration of the PhD position is 4 years, at the end of which the student is expected to complete his or her PhD.


Interested in this job offer? Send your curriculum vitae, the transcript of the grades from the bachelor and master programme, and a motivation letter including your research interests (max 1 page) before April 30, 2021.

The application documents should be sent by email to clearly mentioning in the subject line “GW PhD”. The applicant should also arrange for two letters of recommendation to be sent by email to the same addresses.

Deadline: April 30, 2021

Figure 1: The ETPatfinder prototype gravitational wave telescope
Figure 2: Main interferometer suspended Si-mirrors
Figure 3: A black hole merger leading to a detectable gravitational wave

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