Scholarship in Europe

PhD scholarship: Load monitoring, failure prediction and design optimization for mechatronic systems – Brussels, Belgium

1 – Working at the VUB

For already 50 years, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has stood for freedom, equality and connectedness. These values are strongly present on our campuses, in our students as well as our staff. At the VUB, you’ll find a diverse collection of personalities: pure innovators and especially people who are 100% their authentic selves. With about 3.500 employees, we are the largest Dutch-speaking employer in Brussels, an international city with which we are all too happy to be connected, and around which our four campuses are located.

Our education and research are grounded in the principles of free research with an eye on human progress. We disapprove of every purely authoritative argument and guarantee the free formation of judgement that is necessary for this basic principle to be incorporated in the community.

The VUB is autonomous and managed democratically. As such, we guarantee fundamental freedoms within our university, as well as the right of the university community to be involved in making and checking university policy.

The mission of the university includes:

  • the development, the transfer and the application of high-standing academic education and scientific research, free from any prejudice;
  • community integration of this in a spirit of social compassion;
  • critical development of everyone in light of the responsibilities borne in the community.

2 – Position description

The Faculty of Engineering, Department Toegepaste natuurkunde en fotonica, is looking for a PhD-student with a doctoral grant.

More concretely your work package, for the preparation of a doctorate, contains:

  • You will join the Brussels Photonics (B-PHOT) research group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Belgium.
  • You will instrument mechatronics systems such as drive trains and electric motors with new optical sensors.
  • You will have access to the state-of-the-art laboratories at VUB B-PHOT’s facilities for prototyping, characterising and testing novel optical sensors that enable distributed measurements of mechanical strain and temperature .
  • You will deploy and demonstrate the operation of these sensors using selected test rigs in collaboration with other research groups and universities within Flanders Make, the strategic research centre for the manufacturing industry in Flanders.
  • The open position is part of the Flanders Make strategic research project “FIBERMECH” – Fiber optics & predictable physical models towards load analysis in mechatronic systems.

PhD project context – For the validation of machine prototypes, mechanical stress and temperature measurements with a known small uncertainty are required to provide feedback to the designers and engineers in view of supporting prototyping and design process. This applies for example to the thermal evaluation of electric motors, for which operating at high power density may lead to excessive temperatures, or to the monitoring of high mechanical stress levels within mechanical structures (system housing & rotating components) during extended mechanical load cycles, which may lead to fatigue issues and eventually to machine failure. Inaccurate knowledge of both quantities (mechanical stress and temperature) is typically dealt with by introducing excessive safety factors, leading to over-dimensioned and hence expensive systems. If the system is under-dimensioned instead, one typically face hte failing of the prototypes during operation. The FIBERMECH project aims to unlock the potential of distributed mechanical strain and temperature estimation in mechatronic systems, at lower cost and with improved accuracy compared to conventional mechanical strain gauges and thermal sensors. A more time/cost-efficient, but elaborate measurement campaign will decrease the number of design iterations and save expensive prototyping and design cycles. To reach this objective, FIBERMECH takes advantage of new optical sensors based on glass optical fibers. More specifically, FIBERMECH will deliver tools and methods for reducint the fiber optic sensor measurement uncertainty in view of accurately identifying strain and temperature in mechatronic systems.
These tools and methods cover various mechatronic products and applications: (1) estimation of mechanical inputs for multiple force components; (2) improved temperature estimation in electric motors; (3) estimation of torsional loads and bending moments for electro-mechanical rotary drivetrains. Industrial and realistic validation cases will also be defined with industrial partners to evaluate the feasibility and the reusability of the research and development results.

For this function, our Brussels Photonics Campus (Gooik) will serve as your home base.

3 – Profile

What do we expect from you?

Master’s degree in Photonics Engineering, Physics, Electromechanical Engineering, Applied Mathematics or a diploma recognized as equivalent by competent university authorities.

•    You have a keen interest to conduct ground-breaking research and create innovation in the fields of applied Photonics and Mechatronics and the ambition to obtain a PhD diploma in Engineering.
•    Excellent experimental and computational skills are required. Experience with optical fiber-based sensors is a plus.
•    Proficiency in both spoken and written English (typically CEFR level C1 or equivalent) is required. You will have the opportunity to take evening classes in English to improve your language skills if needed.
•    You look forward to transfer your knowledge and insights to students at Master level with great enthusiasm.
•    You are expected to be able to carry out your research activities independently and in a critical manner, whilst having excellent communication skills and a positive attitude towards collaboration.
•    You should be prepared to travel within Flanders in the frame of research collaborations and potentially worldwide for participation to conferences.
•    Knowledge about photonics and mechatronics is a plus.
Candidates that have not yet acquired their Master’s degree can apply and participate in the selection procedure, but need to offer proof of registration in their Master’s programme and need to have complied with all diploma requirements before starting their position at VUB.

You are expected to endorse the values and vision of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (full text available on the university website).

  • You have not performed any works in the execution of a mandate as an assistant, paid from operating resources, over a total (cumulated) period of more than 12 months.

4 – Offer

Are you going to be our new colleague?

You’ll be offered a full-time PhD-scholarship, for 12 months (extendable up to max. 48 months, on condition of the positive evaluation of the PhD activities), with planned starting date 01/06/2023.

You’ll receive a grant linked to one of the scales set by the government.

IMPORTANT: The effective result of the doctorate scholarship is subject to the condition precedent of your enrolment as a doctorate student at the university.

At the VUB, you’re guaranteed an open, involved and diverse workplace where you are offered opportunities to (further) build on your career.

As well as this, you’ll enjoy various benefits:

  • Full reimbursement for your home-work commute with public transport according to VUB-policy, or compensation if you come by bike;
  • Cost-free hospitalisation insurance;
  • The space to form your job content and continuously learn via VUB LRN;
  • Excellent facilities for sport and exercise;
  • Ecocheques;
  • Delicious meals at attractive prices in our campus restaurants;
  • An open, family-friendly work environment where attention is paid to work-life balance, and exceptional holiday arrangements with 35 days of leave (based on a fulltime contract).

5 – Interested?

Is this the job you’ve been dreaming of?

Send us ONLINE and at the latest on 01/03/2023 your CV, letter of motivation and the highest degree you’ve attained (not applicable for VUB alumni).

Do you have questions about the job content? Contact Dr. Sidney Goossens at or on +32 2 629 36 58.

Would you like to know what it’s like to work at the VUB? Go to and find all there is to know about our campuses, benefits, strategic goals and your future colleagues.