PhD Data Science Applications to Improve Performance in the Special Forces

University of Groningen




Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Balanced study and career paths in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 31,000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Belonging to the best research universities in Europe and joining forces with prestigious partner universities and networks, the University of Groningen is truly an international place of knowledge.

The Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences is a centre of knowledge focusing on individuals and society. The faculty studies issues relating to human behaviour, and the relationships between people and society as a whole. This includes the study of how people function under normal circumstances, but also of the problems encountered by individuals or groups, and how these can be resolved or prevented. The Department of Psychology is part of the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, and offers bachelor’s and master’s programmes in both Dutch and English to over 3000 students.

Job Description

You will work in a collaboration between the Special Forces Unit of the Royal Netherlands Army, the Department of Psychology, and the Distributed Systems group of the Bernoulli Institute for Mathematics, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, University of Groningen. The aim of the project is to advance insights into 1) what factors should we focus on when selecting operators (i.e., commandos)? and 2) if we follow operators longitudinally, can we predict when they are likely to collapse (during a training period or a mission, for example)? Answers to these questions can inform about optimal selection methods, as well as interventions to maintain the health and performance of (specially trained) individuals. The tasks for you include the following: First, finish an online data platform “Your Special Forces”, which allows a secure data storage for research purposes and practical use. Second, use the platform to collect physical and psychological test data in collaboration with the Special Forces Unit. Automated algorithms can be included, and optimized, to detect profiles of successful operators. Third, collect multidimensional data (i.e., physical and psychological) from operators on a daily basis, and write and improve automated algorithms to integrate and analyze these data on a personal level. Accordingly, you should have a strong background in service-oriented computing, software engineering, and should have knowledge of machine learning / data science. During the four years of this project, you will primarily work at the University of Groningen, and are responsible for the online platform and data analytic applications. In addition, you are working on a topic that is highly societally relevant, and will therefore be in touch with the field (i.e., the Special Forces Unit). Finally, you work in close cooperation with the Royal Army.


• having (almost) finished a (research) master's degree in the domain of Computer Science, Data Science, or a related discipline
• an excellent academic record
• programming abilities
• eagerness to publish international articles and write a dissertation
• good social and communication skills to collaborate with both scientists and practitioners in the field
• motivated to connect to other scientific fields related to psychology, health, and/or performance
• excellent command of English and academic writing skills
• good command of the Dutch language
• not having a record of criminal offences; the PhD student who will be appointed has to undergo a safety screening by the MIVD (Military Information and Safety Service).

Conditions of Employment

We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:
• a salary of € 2,325 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 2,972 gross per month in the fourth and final year
• you will get a temporary full-time position (1.0 FTE) of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that you will successfully complete your PhD thesis within the next three years
• a holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income
• an 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance.

Do you meet our Qualification criteria? If yes, your application should include:
• letter of motivation
• CV (including contact information for at least two academic references)
• individual mark sheets.

You can submit your application until 30 May 2019 23:59 h / before 31 May 2019 Dutch local time by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Interviews are planned for 20 June 2019. Interview and moving expenses are fully covered.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP), and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers,

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


For information you can contact:

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.

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