PhD Position in Virtual Prototyping of Particulate Processes
University of Twente, Faculty of Engineering Technology


Job description

Particulate materials are the most manipulated substance on the planet, after water. They are of paramount importance to the chemical-pharmaceutical, agri-food, energy, high-tech manufacturing, mining, and construction industries. 

However, their unique behaviour cannot be captured comprehensively in macroscopic (continuum) models, while microscopic (discrete) models are too inefficient to handle the enormous number of particles. This has so far prevented the development of efficient computational models for particulates, which already exist for fluids and solids. Hence, while cars and airplanes are nowadays designed on the computer, particulate-handling industries still rely on time-consuming and expensive experimentation. 

To realise virtual prototyping of particulate processes, we will develop a novel multiscale approach, microscopically resolving regions where general macroscopic models fail. From these multiscale simulations, we extract efficient, application-specific macro-models and use them to understand and design innovative particulate-handling machinery. We will develop two timely applications in collaboration with industry: additive manufacturing, the future of many high-tech industries; and continuous granulation, an aspiration of the pharma industry. Rapid prototyping will be used to create miniature setups, enabling validation and calibration from a single experiment. 

To achieve this goal we will combine our expertise in micro- and macro-modelling, coupling, open-source code development, model validation, and mesh refinement. The central pillar of this project is coarse-graining, an innovative new coupling technique, which we will use to integrate two highly-regarded open-source softwares, MercuryDPM and oomph-lib. Previously, both coarse-graining and MercuryDPM have been developed by Dr Weinhart. 

The software we develop will speed-up the design and optimisation of numerous particulate-handling applications. Particulate handling is big business, with annual revenues of €660 billion, so even small improvements will lead to substantial benefits for many industries. All software will be released open-source, meaning immediate dissemination to academia and industry. 
This research programme is funded by a prestigious NWO VIDI grant.


A four-year, fully-funded PhD position is available now, to be filled as soon as possible. You will develop a virtual prototype (computational model) for continuous granulation, an important industrial unit operation. A multiscale approach will be used, combining a microscopic particle model for agglomeration with a macroscopic granular flow model. A population balance model will be used to track the growth of the agglomerates on the macroscopic level. A machine-learning approach will be used to calibrate the computation model with experimental data. Experimental validation and design optimisation will be done in collaboration with industrial partners. You will be supervised by Dr Weinhart (Principal Investigator) and Dr Cheng (Senior Postdoc), both of which are experienced scientists and have developed many of the tools applied in this project. 

The software you develop and the data you take will be published open source, so other researchers can use and build upon your work, and industry can use your models without reimplementation. Therefore, this research project participates in the Twente Open-Science Platform, whose aim is to disseminate all research output of the PhD for reuse, rather than only publications.


At the end of your PhD you will:
  1. be equipped with scientific knowledge on continuum mechanics, fluid mechanics and discrete particle mechanics,
  2. know how to develop applications within a large open-source software project, including software management, documentation, and writing reusable code in C++. 
  3. have tailored scientific training in specialist areas, including computational modelling, multiscale techniques, experimental validation, and design optimisation.
  4. have had the maximum opportunity for personal development, with transferable skills and studying within an industrial-academic network.
  5. have participated regularly in top-class international conferences and seminars, expanding your professional network and disseminating your project results.
Graduates exhibiting these skills are extremely scarce and highly valuable to industry, particularly in the fields of process and mechanical engineering.

Your profile

The ideal candidate has a MSc degree in mechanical engineering, applied mathematics, physics, or similar sciences, with outstanding study results. You have a strong interest in computational science, ideally in discrete, continuum, or multiscale simulations. A passion for code development is important, as you will be developing open-source software as part of large development team. You are fluent in English communication, quality-oriented and creative, eager to immerse yourself in new scientific disciplines, and ready to take on initiatives.

Please note: A Game-Based assessment will be also part of the selection procedure.


For more information you can contact the Principal Investigator, Dr. Thomas Weinhart (
See the link :

Your application should be submitted before November 30th, 2019.

Please send the following documents through the link below:

  • BSc and MSc grade lists
  • Documentation proving your English proficiency
  • A motivation letter why you would be a suitable candidate
  • CV
  • Since only three documents can be uploaded per application, please combine documents if needed.


Our offer

We offer a challenging full-time PhD position, in an inspiring multidisciplinary environment.

  • We provide excellent mentorship and a stimulating research environment with excellent facilities;
  • You will be given the opportunity to acquire teaching experience;
  • You are offered a professional and personal development program within Graduate School Twente;
  • A starting salary of € 2.325 gross per month in the first year and a salary of € 2.972 in the fourth year gross per month;
  • A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • A solid pension scheme;
  • Minimum of 29 holidays per year in case of full-time employment.


The organization

The University of Twente. We stand for life sciences and technology. High tech and human touch. Education and research that matter. New technology which leads change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university of the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programmes. We have a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out groundbreaking research.

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. Because of our diversity values we do particularly support women to apply.

The Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET) is one of the five faculties of the University of Twente. ET combines Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering. Our faculty has approximately 1800 bachelor and master students, 400 employees and 150 PhD candidates. The departments of the faculty cooperatively conduct the educational programmes and participate in interdisciplinary research projects, programmes and the research institutes: Mesa+ Institute, TechMed Centra and Digital Society Institute.

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