Postdoctoral Position in Numerical Modelling of Plastics Dispersal in Aquatic Environments
Catholic University of Leuven

The Sediment Mechanics Research unit of KU Leuven has a wide experience in studying particle trasport in the aquatic environment, with special attention to cohesive and non-cohesive sediments. A multiscale approach is used to start from fundamental process studies at laboratory scale to end up with large scale geomorpholodigical engineering applications.Since participation in the JPI Oceans project WEATHER-MIC (2016-2019), we have been investigating the modelling of plastic dispersal by currents, waves and turbulent drift in the aquatic environment by adapting our sediment transport modelling software. In the framework of the Strategic Basic Research project for Clusters (cSBO), entitled “Plastic Flux for innovation and Business Opportunities in Flanders” (2020-2023), PLUXIN for short, funded by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO), the Hydraulics & Geotechnics Division of the KU Leuven Department of Civil Engineering is offering a full-time postdoc position for 18 months (contract to be renewed after 12 months after evaluation, possibly extendable in total to 24 months). Starting date: 1 September 2021. This multidisciplinary project is in collaboration with Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), project coordinator, the Environmental Toxicology Unit of the University of Ghent, the Ecosystem Management Research Group of the University of Antwerp and the Remote Sensing Division of Flanders Institute for Technological Research (VITO). See also the project website


The main task of the KULcontribution will be the development and validation of a versatile numericalmodelling tool in the TELEMAC modelling system ( to simulate the fluxesand fate of plastics in the Scheldt Estuary and along the Belgian coast. Themodel will take into account the 3D spatial distribution in an original way.Innovative methods will be developed to account for a varying size distributionby fragmentation and for biofouling effects.

Field data will becollected at different locations along the Scheldt Estuary and a few coastalports by the project partners, and samples will be analyzed for their plasticcontent. In addition VITO will develop, test and optimize remote sensingtechniques to collect additional data. Additional laboratory tests will becarried out to study sedimentation behavior of plastic particles underdifferent conditions These data will be used for calibration and validation ofthe numerical model.

Besides the PLUXINproject, you will also be involved in the recently awarded European H2020 project LABPLAS (expected to start by the summer of2021), where KU Leuven will be leading the modelling work package and where we willuse the same modelling strategy to other European river basins and the NorthSea and use these results as input for other models and for upscaling to theentire EU.

You will be supervisingand collaborating with two PhD students during the initial phase of their PhDproject, transfer your experience in numerical modelling of (estuarine andcoastal) hydrodynamics and particulate transport and use your creativity tohelp developing new process models.

Besides the numericalwork, you may also be involved in experimental work on the settling behavior ofplastic particles under various condition in collaboration with researchersfrom other partners.


Candidates should be holding a PhD degree inEngineering (or equivalent), with demonstrated experience in computationalfluid dynamics (CFD) in hydraulic or morphodynamic applications in estuarineand coastal environments. Only candidateswith proven experience in modelling with TELEMAC-TOMAWAC-GAIA/SYSIPHE will beconsidered.Specific experience in (1) the modelling of advancedhydrodynamics (turbulence, waves) and sediment transport, as well as (2) experiencein scientific programming of numerical methods (the finite element method inparticular) are a strong asset. Please submit any thesis, report or other publicationdemonstrating your experience in numerical modelling of (complex) fluid flowproblems and the use of TELEMAC.

The candidate isexpected to be creative, being able to carry out research investigation independently, andwilling to work in a multidisciplinary team. He/she should be proficient inEnglish, have excellent scientific writing, planning and communication skills,and be an enthusiastic team player.


We offer an open, stimulating andmulti-disciplinary research environment. Duration of thecontract: 1 year, with possible extension to 6 months (to maximum 1 year),after evaluation. The salary and appointment terms are consistent with thegeneral rules at Leuven University.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. ir. Erik Toorman, tel.: +32 16 32 16 59, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than March 01, 2021 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: March 1, 2021
  • Tags: Ingenieurswetenschappen

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