PhD Position in Laser Ionisation
Catholic University of Leuven

The Institute of Nuclear and Radiation Physics (IKS) is active in the fields of nuclear physics for fundamental and societal research. It has about 50 researchers and 5 professors, and graduates 3-5 PhD students per year. The IKS expertise is situated in radioactive and stable ion beam research and applications, and nuclear physics research with laser, decay, orientation and reaction techniques. Within the IKS, the Nuclear Spectroscopy Group of Prof P. Van Duppen studies the fundamental nature of the atomic nucleus from the halo nuclei in the lightest elements to the actinides and super-heavy elements, from neutron-deficient to neutron-rich, employing various experimental techniques at CERN, GSI, and GANIL. LISA (Laser Ionisation and Spectroscopy of the Actinides) is a 4-year Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) for the career development of 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) across 12 host institutions across Europe, with the assistance of 14 academic and industrial partners. As part of LISA, you will join a dynamic research team that values science, technology, creativity and quality. We encourage the exploration of new ideas and innovations. You will work with a supportive international consortium which includes other enthusiastic young scientists as well as some of the world's leaders in radioactive ion beam science and applications. As part of this project, you will contribute to research that combines the latest advances in laser technologies, radioactive ion beam science and atomic and nuclear theory to address some of the most challenging problems in nuclear and atomic physics.


The heaviest elements of Mendeleev's table form an intriguing research laboratory of interest for nuclear, atomic and astrophysics, but information on the nuclear and atomic structure is scarce. Recently a new method to perform laser ionization spectroscopy studies in a noble gas-jet environment was proposed. This should allow to study the atomic structure of short-lived, weakly produced isotopes from the heavy elements including nobelium, lawrencium and deduce nuclear observables that will validate state-of-the-art nuclear model calculations.

The in-gas-jet laser ionization and spectroscopy (IGLIS) method, based on embedding the radioactive atoms of interest in a supersonic gas jet produced by a ‘De Laval’ nozzle, is currently under development at KU Leuven and will be installed for studies of isotopes in the actinide region and beyond. Experimental campaigns will take place at the GSI-SHIP setup and at the new heavy-ion accelerator and Super Separator Spectrometer (S3) currently under construction at GANIL (France). The recently commissioned laser and mass separator laboratory at KU Leuven is dedicated to the study of the IGLIS method for stable or long-lived radioactive isotopes as well as for short-lived isotopes produced as alpha-decay products from long-lived actinide sources.

With this position, the candidate will characterize and optimize the De Laval nozzles for supersonic gas jet formation. The aim is to produce a homogeneous, low-temperature gas jet and to perform laser ionization spectroscopy with spectral resolution of the order of 100 MHz. Further, she/he will investigate and characterize efficient, selective and sensitive atomic ionization schemes of actinides in gaseous environments. The combined knowledge will be used to perform laser spectroscopy on short-lived radioactive isotopes from recoil-alpha sources and perform the first high-resolution on-line laser spectroscopy measurements on neutron-deficient actinium and thorium isotopes at GANIL-S3. These results will be compared to state-of-the-art atomic and nuclear model calculations.


We are looking for a motivated candidate with interest in lasers and nuclear physics.
Knowledge of nuclear physics or nuclear engineering at a Master level is essential. Knowledge of fluid dynamics, atomic and laser physics is an added value.
As a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action Innovative Training Network, candidates must fulfill specific eligibility criteria (mobility, early career researcher, ...) and apply centrally to the LISA recruitment site with the link provided.
Moreover, the selected candidate will become a full part of the LISA ITN, where special attention will be given to training, skills & professionalization, scientific communication and networking beyond the pure research aspects of the position.


As a successful candidate, you will be offered the following for the position:

  • 4-year PhD position within the IKS Nuclear Spectroscopy Group under the supervision of Prof P. Van Duppen
  • Attractive salary and mobility allowance (+ family allowance if eligible)
  • A stimulating working environment at a world-leading institution
  • Access to state-of-the-art facilities on site
  • Collaboration with national and international facilities (VKI, CERN, GSI, GANIL)
Within the LISA ITN, you will also be offered the following:
  • Academic and professionalization training across Europe by world-leaders in their fields
  • Networking opportunities across Europe, Canada, Japan, the USA and many more through and extended range of partners in the academic, research and industrial world
  • Secondment placements at Pantechnik (industry in France), GANIL (research lab in France), GSI (research lab in Germany) and LIOP-TEC (industry in Germany)


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Piet Van Duppen, tel.: +32 16 32 72 72, mail: or Prof. dr. Thomas Elias Cocolios, tel.: +32 16 32 31 16, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than April 30, 2020 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: April 30, 2020
  • Tags: Wetenschappen
  • Download: file

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