PhD position: Interferometry of Massive stars

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Archive Date: 
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Pre-doctoral/Graduate Positions
Institution Classification/Type: 
Large Academic
KU Leuven
Department Name: 
Institute of Astrophysics
Street Line 1: 
Celestijnlaan 200D
Vlaams Brabant
Job Announcement Text: 

The MULTIPLES project

Throughout the Universe, the dynamics and chemical evolution of spiral galaxies like our Milky Way are largely controlled by the lives and deaths of stars with masses many times that of the Sun. The evolution of these massive stars, in turn, is highly regulated by their multiplicity and by the mass and angular momentum exchanged through binary interaction, and by the huge amounts of mass expelled from their surfaces by means of powerful starlight-driven wind outflows. These fundamental properties critically determine how these massive stars live and die and control the nature and properties of the compact remnants – neutron stars and black holes – that are left behind. In this context, the MULTIPLES project aims at constraining the multiplicity properties of massive stars across their entire life cycle, as well as to investigate the origin of close massive binaries and to characterize the nature and frequency of post-interaction productsin populations of massive stars.

The Vacancy

Through an ERC-CoG, the KU Leuven Institute of Astrophysics is advertising 1PhD and 1 Postdoc position. The selected candidate will join the MULTIPLES/ MASSIVE STAR team (6 PhDs, 3 PDs) under the supervision of Prof. Hugues Sana and will work as part of an international network of collaborators. The advertised position cover the following topics:

High-angular resolution observations of massive stars: In this project, the selected applicant will use new and archival data to investigate the multiplicity properties of different class of massive stars in the Milky Way using high-angular resolution techniques with an emphasis on optical long-baseline interferometry. They will investigate the impact and significance of multiplicity on the formation and evolution of massive stars, as well as the role and frequency of triples and higher order multiple systems.The observational constraints will be compared to those obtained at other mass ranges, metallicities and evolutionary stages to investigate the evolutionary connections between different populations of massive stars and their contributions to core-collapse supernovae, gamma-ray bursts and gravitational waves progenitors.

The Host Institute

The Institute of Astronomy (IoA) of Leuven University in Belgium is a young and vibrant research group of some 50 scientists, engineers, and administrative staff (, including 6 full-time and 3 part-time professors. The institute is an expertise center in stellar physics and is active in several international consortia and collaborations, involving telescopes at observatories worldwide and in space. Members of IoA have access to parallel computing facilities at Leuven University. The IoA is responsible for the organization of the 2-year Master in Astronomy & Astrophysics of the Faculty of Science and owns the 1.2m Mercator telescope at Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma Observatory, Canary Islands. The institute has a long tradition in instrumental, observational, and theoretical studies of stellar evolution.

Requirements and Instructions to Apply

PhD applicantsmust hold a M.Sc. degree in physics, astrophysics or mathematics or else own an equivalent diploma. The degree must be dated at the latest one month before the position can be taken up. For PhD students. Expertise in astrophysics is an asset but not a requirement. Similarly, expertise in optical/infrared interferometry and/or massive stars is an asset but not a requirement. Proficiency in English is required. The application package should be sent as one single PDF file containing:

  • a curriculum vitae, with a publication list if relevant;
  • a statement of interest (max. one page);
  • a summary of prior research experience (e.g. master thesis; max. 2 pages for PhD applicants)
  • a list of all master courses with their number of study points and the individual scores obtained as well as the yearly averages.

Applicants must also provide the names and contact details of two reference persons who would be prepared to send confidential recommendation letters should they be requested to do so. The selection committee will send out requests for such letters for those applicants on the short-list after an initial ranking. The short-listed applicants will be invited for an interview (live or via Skype).

Further information on the positions and on the project may be obtained by contacting the promotor of the project, Prof. Hugues Sana, by email ( or phone (+32-16-37.43.61)

The application material should be sent by e-mail to with subject “PHD-MULTIPLES-<applicant_surname>” at the latest by May 02, 2019. Applications that do not strictly follow these guidelines may not be properly identified and may therefore be lost.

Pay Compensation
Salary Min: 
$2000.00 (USD)
Included Benefits: 

The selected PhD student will be offered a 2-year contract, once renewable with 2 more years after positive evaluation. The salary will be commensurate to the standard scale for PhD students in Belgium; it includes social and medical insurance as well as pension rights. The foreseen starting date is October 1st 2019 but can be negotiated.

The successful PhD applicant will have to register at, and comply with, the regulations of the Arenberg Doctoral School of the Leuven University. Good command of the English language is a requirement to be approved by the doctoral school. The successful PhD applicant will follow a doctoral programme including personal training in management, science communication, and teaching. As part of the doctoral requirements, the students will have to take up a teaching task of at maximum 4 hours per week in one of the Bachelor (in Dutch) or Master (in English) programmes. PhD students at IoA are also required to perform at least one Mercator observing run of 10 nights per year for the pooled IoA long-term monitoring programmes.

Application Deadline: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019
Selection Deadline: 
Sunday, June 2, 2019
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
Apply to Job
Attention To: 
Hugues Sana
KU Leuven
Department Name: 
Institute of Astrophysics
Inquiries About Job
Attention To: 
Hugues Sana