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FED-TWIN tenure track: KU Leuven-BIRA-IASB: Workleader at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) (50%) and professor at the KU Leuven (50%)



Deadline for applications
Job title description

A full-time tenure track academic vacancy as an independent academic staff (50%) - work leader (50%) is vacant within the framework of the BIRA-IASB FED-tWIN research programme between the Science, Engineering and Technology Group, Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics, Division of Plasma-astrophysics and the Federal Scientific Institute BIRA-IASB, Department Space Physics, Division Solar Wind.

Place of employment

  • KU Leuven, Department of Mathematics, Celestijnenlaan 200B, 3001 Leuven, Belgium.
  • Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, Avenue Circulaire 3, 1180 Uccle, Belgium.


Deadline for applications : January 15, 2021

Division, context

BIRA-IASB is a Belgian Federal Scientific Institute conducting research and providing services in space aeronomy, i.e. the physics and chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere and other planets, and outer space. BIRA-IASB has strong experience in space weather and in developing kinetic models of solar wind interactions with the terrestrial magnetosphere.

The KU Leuven team has considerable expertise in space and solar physics, in using Machine Learning and in the development of simulations and models of space and solar plasmas to track the development of energetic particles.

  • You will elaborate test particle simulations embedded within large-scale MHD models on space plasmas, as well as study particle distributions using methods of supervised and unsupervised machine learning (ML).
  • At BIRA-IASB and in collaboration with the KU Leuven team, you will address major remaining issues related to energetic particles in space plasmas using the kinetic approach, and you will implement different mechanisms in numerical models at different scales.
  • You ensure high quality education in the bachelor and master programme of mathematics at KU Leuven with a clear commitment to the quality of the entire educational programme. The teaching load will be in accordance with a 50% employment at KU Leuven. If you do not speak Dutch at the start of your appointment, your initial teaching duties will be in English. Later in your career, you will also teach in Dutch and possibly also teach a basic mathematics course in another KU Leuven programme. You also contribute to the pedagogical project of the university through the supervision of master theses. You develop your teaching in accordance with KU Leuven's vision on activating and research-based education and make use of the possibilities for the educational professionalisation offered by the faculty and the university.
  • The official language at KU Leuven is Dutch. If you do not speak Dutch (or do not speak it well) at the start of employment, KU Leuven will provide language training to enable you to take part in meetings. You are required to master the Dutch language at the CERF level B2 within five years of being appointed. To teach a course in Dutch or in English, you need to master that language at native or CERF level C1.
  • You will supervise and support PhD students and contribute to the preparation and management of new research projects. You will have a collaborative spirit and liaise with collaborators. You need to be able to organize and troubleshoot your work independently, document it thoroughly, communicate results and lead a team in a transparent and professional manner.
  • You will play an important role in society through your research and teaching, but also through your service to the society. Depending on the needs and your personal interests, this can consist of participation in the public debate, science communication, contributions to policy-supporting research projects for governments from the local to the European and international level, etc. You will take up an active role in councils, educational committees, working groups, etc.
Required competences

We are looking for a highly motivated, well organised and dynamic candidate with a high level of independence and creative thinking.

  • You hold a PhD in Physics, Engineering or Mathematics obtained at the earliest 12 years prior to the submission date of the job application. The 12-year period is extended by one year for each maternity, parental and adoption leave of the candidate and for each long-term sick leave of the candidate or his/her immediate family.
  • You have a relevant publication track record with several first author publications.
  • You are eager to learn new techniques and you show a keen interest and curiosity driven approach to scientific questions
  • You have expertise in programming languages, preferably applied to Machine Learning ML (Python, TensorFlow, Keras, PyTorch), to MHD, fluid, kinetic theory and/or to particle in cell (PIC) methods (C++, MPI).
  • You have demonstrable expertise in space physics, preferentially for the solar wind and the magnetosphere. Experience in fitting methods is a plus.
  • You have experience in writing research proposals, in working with deadlines and being involved simultaneously in multiple projects.
  • You are a team player.
  • You are able to guide PhD students and coordinate the projects between our teams.
  • Proficiency in English is required.
  • The official language used at KU Leuven is Dutch. If you do not speak Dutch (or do not speak it well) at the start of employment, KU Leuven will provide language training to enable you to take part in meetings. Before teaching courses in Dutch or English, you will be given the opportunity to learn Dutch, respectively English, to the required standard.
Offer and benefits
  • The position is on a contractual basis. Salary is according to the federal regulations for scientific contractual personnel.
  • All relevant work experience (public + private sector) will be considered when determining seniority.
  • Possibility to acquire a bonus for bilinguism (Dutch/French)
  • Possibility of training (to be followed during working hours)
  • Pleasant working atmosphere in a scientific environment located in a green setting
  • Attractive annual leave policy (minimum 26 days by year) and options to balance professional and personal life (flexible schedule).
  • Flexible schedule within the 38 hours week
  • Pleasant work environment in a scientific institution located in a green setting in Uccle, Brussels.
  • Full refund of commuting expenses when using public transportation, compensation when using the bicycle
  • Possibility to work from home
  • Access to special advantages arranged for the employees of the federal scientific institutions : museum card, hospitalization insurance, reductions via the Fed + card, etc.
  • Company restaurant with reasonably priced hot meals and salad bar.
  • On-site childcare during school holidays in July and August.
  • Dynamic working environment with international contacts.

Apply online via

After evaluation of the application letters, the selected candidates will be invited for an interview, or a teleconference.

Deadline for applications: February 15, 2021


For more information, please contact Viviane Pierrard, mail: viviane(dot)pierrard(at)aeronomy(dot)be

Or Prof. dr. ir. Giovanni Lapenta, tel.: +32 16 32 79 65, mail: giovanni(dot)lapenta(at)kuleuven(dot)be

KU Leuven central library
More about BIRA-IASB

The Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) is a Belgian Federal Scientific Institute.

Since its founding in 1964, BIRA-IASB has been conducting research and providing public services in space aeronomy, i.e. the physics and chemistry of Earth's atmosphere and other planets, and outer space.

Our scientists use instruments on the ground, in the air, on board balloons or in space and computer models.