PhD student on Numerical modeling of electrical discharges in insulators

Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) has a vacancy in the research group on Multiscale Dynamics for

a PhD student

on the numerical modeling and investigation of electric discharges within insulators.

Job description

Partial discharges are a common phenomena in electrical equipment. They occur when a small electric discharge forms within (or around) electrical insulation, for example because it contains a void or a crack. In this project, the focus is on partial discharges that occur in high-tech actuators, such as those used to position wafers for chip production. The performance of such actuators can be improved by using higher operating voltages and by switching those voltages on and off faster, but this leads to increasing failures that are probably related to partial discharges. For this reason, a large collaborative project recently started with academic partners from TU Eindhoven, TU Delft and CWI and industry partners ASML and Tecnotion.

The goal of the PhD project at CWI is to use numerical simulations to better understand where and when partial discharges form in an actuator, and how their presence relates to mechanical defects. The research will be done in collaboration with project partners, for example to establish the geometries that will be studied and the operating conditions, to compare simulation results of partial discharges with experimental measurements, and to provide information about partial discharges to project partners.

Information about methodology
There are currently different types of discharge simulation codes available in the group, based on either a fluid or a particle-based approach. These codes are parallelized and they use adaptive mesh refinement, but they are not directly suitable for simulating partial discharges in somewhat complex geometries with dielectrics and electrodes. Depending on the candidate's expertise and interest, the candidate could for example put more emphasis on:

1. Validating existing partial discharge models against experimental data in relatively simple geometries
2. Implementing an efficient field solver and discharge model suitable for complex geometries
3. The inverse problem: what can be learned about a sample from partial discharge measurements?
4. Developing a simplified model for partial discharges and their long-term effects, and validating this model against experiments


Candidates are expected to have a Master’s degree in (computational) physics, applied mathematics, scientific computing, electrical engineering or a related discipline when they start. Furthermore, we are looking for candidates who:

- Are motivated to do research
- Are familiar with programming and/or numerical modelling
- Have good communication skills, both written and orally

Terms and conditions

The terms of employment are in accordance with the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement for Research Centres ("CAO-onderzoeksinstellingen"). The initial labour agreement will be for a period of 18 months. After a positive evaluation, the agreement will be extended by 30 months. The gross monthly salary, for a PhD student on a full time basis, is € 2,781 during the first year and increases to €3,562 over the four year period. Employees are also entitled to a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.33%. CWI offers attractive working conditions, including flexible scheduling and help with housing for expat employees.

Please visit our websites for more information about our terms of employment: and​​​​​

Information and application

Use the "Apply" button at the bottom of this page to send a motivation letter, a CV, including the email addresses of two references, diplomas (with a grade transcript for non-Dutch diplomas) and (a draft of) your Master’s thesis.

The position remains open until a suitable candidate has been found. Candidates are encouraged to apply early even if they can only start later.

For more information about the vacancy, please contact Dr. Jannis Teunissen ( or Prof. Ute Ebert (

For more information about CWI, please visit or watch our video about working at CWI

Diversity code

CWI encourages a diverse workforce: we endeavour to develop talent and creativity by bringing people from different backgrounds and cultures together. We recruit and select based on capabilities and talent. We strongly encourage everyone with the appropriate qualifications to apply for the vacancy, regardless of age, gender, origin, sexual orientation or physical abilities.

About CWI

Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) is the Dutch national research institute for mathematics and computer science and is part of the Institutes Organisation of the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The mission of CWI is to conduct pioneering research in mathematics and computer science, generating new knowledge in these fields and conveying it to trade, industry, and society at large.

CWI is an internationally oriented institute, with 160 scientists from approximately 27 countries, an informal atmosphere and short lines of communication. We have an activity committee that organizes after-work activities and an informal women’s network.  

CWI is located at Science Park Amsterdam, the home of AMS-IX, that is presently developing into a major location of research in the physical sciences in The Netherlands, housing the sciences of the University of Amsterdam as well as several other national research institutes next to CWI.

About Research group

The Multiscale Dynamics group at CWI has a long history of developing models for electric discharges, both in nature and technology. The group is led by prof. Ute Ebert ( The PhD candidate will be supervised by Dr. Jannis Teunissen (homepage To find more information about the group, please visit the group page and watch their video on