The Department of Criminology at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (Freiburg, Germany) is looking for its project: “Virtual Burglary: Using virtual reality experiments to understand burglar decision making” for a

Postdoctoral Researcher (m/f/d)

The challenge

The Virtual Burglary Project (VBP) is an ongoing collaborative research program with researchers from the Max Planck Institute (Germany), the University of Portsmouth (UK), Leiden University and VU University Amsterdam (Netherlands), and Carnegie Mellon University (US). It uses virtual reality versions of residential neighborhoods to study the behavior of domestic burglars and tests key hypotheses related to their decision making, experience and expertise. The use of virtual reality (VR)-based experiments allows for researching the decisions burglars make in (near) real time, and measuring different aspects of their behavior, including spatial movement, timing and eye-tracking. The ambition of the VBP is to realize ground-breaking advances in our understanding of offender decision making through the use of this novel technology.


This postdoc project builds on earlier work of the VBP and involves data collection among incarcerated burglars in the United States. Specifically, the project will experimentally examine how target characteristics affect burglar decision making. For example, to what extent do cues signaling wealth, visible alarm systems, or clear sight lines attract or deter offenders? The postdoc project will experimentally vary the presence and absence of such factors to gain insight into their relative deterrent or attractive effects. Aside from advancing our knowledge of offender decision making, answers to these questions can result in valuable input for crime prevention and target hardening efforts.


You will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Dr. Van Gelder (Max Planck Institute (MPI)) and Prof. Dr. Daniel Nagin (Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University) and will be working closely with other researchers in an ambitious and multidisciplinary team that aims to push the boundaries of the current state of the art in crime research.

The first 6 months of your contract you will be working at the MPI in Freiburg, Germany, to familiarize yourself with VR and eye-tracking technology and how they can be used to study offender decision making as well as contribute to developing the research design of the project. The next 12 months, you will be collecting data in different prison facilities in the state of Pennsylvania in the US. The final 18 months you will be based in Freiburg again to analyze data and write up your findings. During the period of data collection in the US, your base of operations will be Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Your Profile

  • you have a PhD in a relevant field of the social sciences, preferably criminology, psychology or (quantitative) sociology;
  • you have a clear interest in crime research;
  • you have affinity with novel technologies, such as virtual reality;
  • you combine a strong background in statistics;
  • you have a well-developed ability to work independently and also enjoy working in teams;
  • you have excellent English language skills, both in writing and speaking; and
  • you are flexible and open to traveling.

Our offer

The Department of Criminology at the MPI aspires to lead innovation in the field. You will therefore be working in a young, dynamic, and highly multi-disciplinary research environment in one of the leading centers for research in public security matters in Europe. The MPI is organized in three research departments: criminal law, public law, and criminology and is part of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, one of world’s most distinguished research organizations. Not only does the Max Planck Society and its institutes offer the opportunity for interdisciplinary cooperation among its 86 institutes, it also supports its young researchers in such efforts and in the development of their academic careers.

The MPI in Freiburg offers a world-renowned, specialized library and an ideal environment for theoretical, doctrinal and empirical research. Freiburg is a beautiful, 900-year-old university town nestled at the foothills of the charming Black Forest that provides plenty to see and do for culture buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Freiburg is located in the border region of southwest Germany, near the larger cities of Basel in Switzerland and Strasbourg in France.

As a postdoctoral researcher, your salary is calculated based on your qualifications and previous experience and according to the rates for German civil service employees at the E13 Level (TVöD Bund). The salary includes all mandatory social insurance contributions for health care, unemployment and retirement. The appointment will be for three years with the possibility of extension.

The Max Planck Society is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes applications from disabled persons. It also aims to increase the percentage of female researchers in fields in which they are underrepresented and therefore also expressly encourages women to apply. The Max Planck Society strives to ensure diversity and encourages applications from all backgrounds. We are committed to the reconciliation of family and career and can offer flexible working arrangements.

Your application

To apply, please submit with your application a letter of interest and previous experience, a CV or resume, transcripts and two or more references, in one PDF file (max. 5 MB per E-Mail) online via the following link:

For more information please contact Nicole Hanna ( The deadline for application is September 15, 2020.

Check Also


Theoretical evaluation of the performance of nanoelectronic (especially spintronic) systems is essential for determining their …

Leave a Reply