In recent years, climate change has caused severe damage to the built/natural environment. In the province of Overijssel in the Netherlands, the extreme drought in 2019 dried the soil, leading to a substantial decrease in crop yield, weakening of vegetated dikes, and unforeseen damages to (infra-)structures in the surrounding areas. The expected impact calls for innovative geotechnical solutions that not only ensure safety in extreme climate conditions but also accommodate the continuously changing conditions, following and not contrasting natural processes, in the spirit of “building with nature”. A deeper understanding of the interaction between soil physical and mechanical properties, root growth, and water uptake dynamics during drying-wetting cycles has become of the utmost importance to improve the resilience of vegetated geomaterials.  

The vadose zone below the surface and above the water table is our region of interest. This zone covers a variety of saturation regimes that are subjected to high fluctuations in time, particularly under extreme climate conditions, and high spatial heterogeneity due to the nature of soil. Over the past decades, geotechnical engineers have produced many coupled hydromechanical models for unsaturated soils and non-intrusive testing techniques for mapping underground water. In hydrology and water resources, sophisticated models (e.g., STEMMUS) have been developed for predicting the exchange of energy, water, and solute between soil, root, and water, while with rather simple mechanical assumptions for the soil (e.g., being a rigid body). Meanwhile, novel remote sensing techniques now allow the measurement of surface deformation, as well as the status of vegetation growth. The aim of this project is therefore to couple the modeling and monitoring tools in a multidisciplinary approach to assess the stability and resilience of natural soils under extreme drying-wetting cycles. The coupled model will be calibrated with data streams obtained from integrated agro-geotechnical measurement systems which will be installed in the “Living Innovation Lab” in the University of Twente Campus. 

You are expected to work on the hydro-mechanical aspects of unsaturated soils and synergize the existing knowledge of plant growth into a computational agro-geomechanical framework via active collaborations within our multidisciplinary team. The primary goal is to understand how the hydro-mechanical-growth processes influence soil characteristics, and in turn how permanent soil deformation affects root growth dynamics, during wetting and drying.

  • Focus will be on water transport/uptake and the dynamics of root growth in sandy soils.
  • You will use advanced 3D imaging and coupled numerical simulation techniques.
  • You will make use of the state-of-the-art data assimilation technique “GrainLearning” for model calibration and validation.


  • We are seeking an enthusiastic PhD student to join the University of Twente and work on the multi-scale modeling and monitoring of soil-water-vegetation interaction subjected to extreme climate conditions.
  • You have obtained a MSc degree in a relevant field such as civil or mechanical engineering, hydrology and water resources engineering, computer science, applied- or geo-physics or related areas.
  • You are interested to learn and contribute to new technologies for geomechanical application.
  • You love working in a multidisciplinary team in which fundamental and applied research cross-fertilize.
  • Furthermore, an appropriate qualification in the English Language together with excellent communication and organizational skills are required.


The UT provides a dynamic and international environment, combining the benefits of academic research with a topic of high societal relevance, excellent working conditions, an exciting scientific environment, and a green and lively campus. We offer:

  • A full-time 4-year PhD position.
  • An offer for a personal development program within the Twente Graduate School.
  • A gross monthly salary of € 2.395 in the first year, increasing each year up to € 3.061 in the fourth year.
  • A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, and a year-end bonus of 8.3%.
  • A minimum of 29 holidays per year in case of full-time employment;
    Full status as an UT-employee, including pension and health care benefits.

You will work with colleagues from the Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation of the University of Twente.


Please submit your application before 20 January 2021, using the ‘Apply now’ button below, and include your CV, motivation letter, bachelor and master transcripts, contact details of at least two references who worked closely with you, theses or reports (if available).

For more information on the project, you can contact Dr. H. Cheng (h.cheng@utwente.nl), Dr. Y. Zeng (y.zeng@utwente.nl), and Dr. V. Magnanimo (v.magnanimo@utwente.nl).

Please note that this vacancy is only open to female scientists. This is part of the University of Twente’s strategy to increase the proportion of women among its faculty and to create a working environment that is diverse and inclusive and supportive of excellence in research and teaching.


You will work in the Construction Management & Engineering group, at Faculty of Engineering Technology at the University of Twente (Netherlands). The position is part of a multidisciplinary team and will include close collaboration and co-supervision by the Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation the same university.


The Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET) engages in education and research Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering with a view to enabling society and industry to innovate and create value using sound, efficient and sustainable technology. We are part of a ‘people-first’ university of technology, taking our place as an internationally leading centre for smart production, processes and devices in five domains: Health Technology, Maintenance, Smart Regions, Smart Industry and Sustainable Resources. Our faculty is home to some 1,800 Bachelor’s and Master’s students, 400 employees and 150 PhD candidates and offers three degree programmes: Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Industrial Design Engineering. Our educational and research programme are closely connected with UT research institutes Mesa+ Institute, TechMed Centra and Digital Society Institute.

As an employer, the ET Faculty offers jobs that matter. We equip you as a staff member to shape new opportunities both for yourself and for our society. With our Faculty, you will be part of a leading tech university that is changing our world for the better. We offer an open, inclusive and entrepreneurial climate, in which we encourage you to make healthy choices, for example, with our flexible, customizable conditions.

University of Twente (UT)

University of Twente (UT) has entered the new decade with an ambitious, new vision, mission and strategy. As ‘the ultimate people-first university of technology’ we are rapidly expanding on our High Tech Human Touch philosophy and the unique role it affords us in society. Everything we do is aimed at maximum impact on people, society and connections through the sustainable utilisation of science and technology. We want to contribute to the development of a fair, digital and sustainable society through our open, inclusive and entrepreneurial attitude. This attitude permeates everything we do and is present in every one of UT’s departments and faculties. Building on our rich legacy in merging technical and social sciences, we focus on five distinguishing research domains: Improving healthcare by personalised technologies; Creating intelligent manufacturing systems; Shaping our world with smart materials; Engineering our digital society; and Engineering for a resilient world.PHD POSITION ON “TOWARDS CLIMATE RESILIENCE FOR GEOMATERIALS: A MULTI-DISCIPLINARY INVESTIGATION”


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