PhD position in Vibration-Based Assessment of Concrete Structures after Fire

Leuven, Louvain (BE)
20 Dec 2021
End of advertisement period
30 Jan 2022
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

A four-year doctoral research position is available at the KU Leuven Structural Mechanics Section within the framework of the project “Vibration-based post-fire assessment of concrete structures using Bayesian updating techniques”, funded by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO), Belgium.

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An adequate and efficient assessment of structural safety after extreme events such as fire, an earthquake or flooding, is essential for increasing the resilience and sustainability of our infrastructure. Unfortunately, current practice in post-fire structural condition assessment is far from this goal, as the many uncertainties associated with fire exposure and residual mechanical properties are not sufficiently taken into account, and appropriate non-destructive assessment methodologies are lacking. As a result, refurbishment and demolition are often needlessly pursued. In a new joint research project, the Department of Civil Engineering of KU Leuven and the Department of Structural Engineering and Building Materials of Ghent University are joining forces for developing a new, much more rational post-fire assessment methodology.

This PhD project focuses on the non-destructive assessment of the residual load-bearing capacity of reinforced concrete structural elements and connections after a fire event. First, a dedicated approach to the experimental identification of damage-sensitive features will be developed based on the combination of promising new fiber-optic sensing techniques with advanced signal processing, system identification and machine learning methods. Next, a methodology for creating a suitable digital twin of the structure in post-fire condition will be developed, based on structural and thermal finite element modeling. The accuracy of the digital twin will then be improved by incorporating the experimentally identified information via Bayesian updating. The new methodologies will be thoroughly validated via laboratory fire tests and demonstrated via in-situ showcase problems.


The successful applicant is soon to obtain or has obtained a MSc degree (or equivalent) in Structural Engineering, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering or a closely related field with very good to excellent grades. Additionally, he or she must have a solid background and keen interest in structural dynamics and finite element analysis, strong communication, programming, and problem solving skills, proficiency in English, the ability to meet the admission requirements of the KU Leuven Arenberg Doctoral School and the motivation to successfully complete the PhD project within 4 years.


This PhD project will involve close collaboration between KU Leuven and Ghent University and therefore offers the unique opportunity to obtain a double PhD degree from both universities. The main host institution will be KU Leuven, which offers a collaborative and internationally oriented research environment at one of the leading engineering faculties worldwide. The Civil Engineering Department is located in a scenic setting, next to the Arenberg Castle at the outskirts of Leuven. Regular secondments are foreseen at Ghent University, which also offers an internationally leading research environment as well as extensive testing facilities.

The successful candidate will be jointly supervised by Prof. Edwin Reynders (KU Leuven), Prof. Geert Lombaert (KU Leuven) and Prof. Ruben Van Coile (UGent),who offer complementary research expertise in numerical and experimental structural mechanics, structural dynamics and fire safety engineering. The candidate will be encouraged to present his or her research at international conferences and can benefit from our strong international research network. Besides the main research activities, the candidate will also act as a teaching assistant for one or more courses related to structural mechanics. The PhD scholarship amounts to a net income of about 1900 euro per month, depending on the personal situation.


Applications should include (1) a motivation letter (max. 2 pages) describing why the applicant is interested in this particular position and how it fits into his or her career plans, (2) a full cv showing how the applicant’s profile fits the requirements, (3) a complete transcript of records to date, (4) a proof of proficiency in English (TOEFL, IELTS or native speaker) or Dutch, and (5) an electronic copy of the MSc thesis or a similar research project report (if already available).

Applications may only be submitted online via the link below. The submission deadline is 30 January 2022, but earlier submission is encouraged. The position is available immediately and the successful candidate is required to take up the position no later than 1 September 2022.

Applications will be reviewed in two stages. The first stage consists of an in-depth review of the application file. A limited number of shortlisted candidates will subsequently be invited for an online or live interview, depending on circumstances. Please note that the following minimal thresholds will be applied when assessing language proficiency: a TOEFL ibt- total score of 94, with no section scores below 22, or an IELTS overall band score of 7.0, with no band scores below 6.5. Applications not meeting these thresholds will not be considered.

Shortlisting and final selection will be based on scientific background, merit and research potential. The scientific merit of the candidates not only considers course grades, but also evidence of team work, interdisciplinary knowledge, creativity, independent working, transferable skills, and public engagement.

You can apply for this job no later than January 30, 2022 via the online application tool

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 diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.