PhD student on computational modelling of “Green Sparks”

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

a PhD student

for computational modelling of “Green Sparks”.

Job description

Electric gas discharges occur in nature, most prominently in air in the form of lightning and its less visible precursors. Similar discharges occur in high-voltage equipment, such as the switchgear used in electric grids. Our transition to sustainable electric energy requires major extensions of this grid. However, switchgear and other high-voltage equipment currently often operate with SF6 gas, which is the worst greenhouse gas known. Within the project, we will investigate the dynamics of “green sparks” in “green” alternatives to SF6.

The fundamental question of the project is: How does the development of a gas discharge depend on the gas composition and on the operating conditions? We now are making a lot of progress on discharges in air, but air seems to be a very non-generic gas. Within the “Green Sparks” project, discharge experiments in different “green” gases will be performed by two PhD students at the departments of applied physics and electrical engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology, while the PhD student at CWI will focus on computational modelling. A committee of industrial users ranging from a start-up to a multinational will give feedback on the research twice per year.

Will you join our collaborative project team to develop and evaluate computational models for these discharges?

Then you would become part of our modelling group at CWI Amsterdam. Here we have extensive expertise in modelling the dynamics of such gas discharges. We work with particle or density models for the free electrons in the discharge and employ adaptive mesh refinement as well as analytical approximations to grasp the multiple spatial and temporal scales of the problem. For further background information on the project, see, e.g., or .


Candidates are required to have a Master’s degree in (computational) physics, applied mathematics, scientific computing, electrical engineering or a similar discipline when they start. During the project, the candidate is expected to gain considerable expertise on the computational modelling of gas discharges.

We appreciate a drive for science combined with diligence, prior experience with numerical modelling, an affinity with physical reasoning, and 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 Prof. Ute Ebert, email or Dr. Jannis Teunissen, email 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 her and by Dr. Jannis Teunissen ( To find more information about the group, please visit the group page and watch their video on