PhD Position in Influence of Infragravity Waves on Hydro-Morphodynamic Processes During Storms

Catholic University of Leuven Department of Civil Engineering


In the framework of a recently awarded FWO (The Research Foundation - Flanders) project entitled “Influence of infragravity sea waves during storms on the hydro- and morphodynamic processes along hybrid soft-hard coastal defence structures with a shallow foreshore.”, a PhD position is opened. The research will be carried out in the Hydraulics and Geotechnics Section of the Department of Civil Engineering at KU Leuven. The research of this section covers Urban and River Hydrology and Hydraulics, Coastal Engineering, Coastal and Estuarine Hydrodynamics, Remote Sensing, Sediment Mechanics, Eco-Hydro-Morphodynamics and Geotechnical Engineering. This vacancy is embedded in the fields of coastal and estuarine hydrodynamics and morphodynamics.


The research project aims at understanding the role of infragravity waves on the effectiveness of hybrid soft-hard coastal defence structures along a coast with a shallow foreshore.

Urban areas in low-lying coastal zones are typically protected from flooding due to storm surge and waves by a hybrid soft-hard coastal defence structure. Such structures combine a mild-sloped beach (soft structure) and a steep-sloped dike (hard structure).For smaller water depths on the beach (shallow water case), a surf and swash zone starts to develop in front of the dike toe. In this zone, short waves (ss) reduce in wave height by wave breaking, while longer waves, called “infragravity (ig) waves”, increase in wave height due to shoaling and energy transfer from the ss waves. The ig wave-related processes have a highly significant, but insufficiently researched effect on both the beach erosion and wave overtopping, which are leading to flood risks. The proposed research aims at gaining more (quantitative) insight into the influence of ig waves on these processes and in how they can be taken into account in the design of our coastal protection. Computer simulations will be the main tool to study the hydrodynamic and morphodynamic processes. In addition, field observations of ig waves will be performed within a new unique measurement site of a hybrid soft-hard coastal defence structure in Ostend (Belgium). This will provide crucial insight into the different types of ig wave sources that exist in the field (currently only one type is taken into account in design methods), and a unique and innovative dataset to validate the computer simulations.

The PhD work will focus on the morphological and hydrodynamic modelling of the beach and foreshore area during storm events. Adaptations to state of the art hydrodynamic and morphodynamic models will be needed to investigate the role and effects of infra-gravity waves on the morphodynamic response of the beach at the dike toe. This is important to accurately estimate wave overtopping. Wave overtopping itself will be studied by the research partners of Ghent University. The PhD researcher will be involved during field campaigns and in the processing of the data (topographic, bathymetric and wave data) for modelling purposes. Close collaboration with the other partners in the project (Ghent University and Flanders Marine Institute) is envisaged.


You hold a Master degree in Civil Engineering, Physical Oceanography or a related area.  Knowledge of and interest in numerical simulation of coastal hydrodynamics (currents and waves) and coastal morphodynamics is essential. Please submit any thesis, report or other publication demonstrating your experience in hydrodynamic and morphodynamic modelling. Proven experience in scientific programming is an asset. Experience with the Telemac software ( and/or Xbeach ( is considered a plus.

You have an excellent command of English both for oral and written communication.

You are creative, you are able to work independently and formulate/tackle research problems. You are willing to work in a multidisciplinary team.

Preferred starting date: a.s.a.p.


We offer a dynamic, friendly and stimulating international research environment. .The duration of the contract is 1 year, with yearly extension to a maximum of 4 years, after yearly evaluation. The salary and appointment terms are consistent with the general rules at our university.

KU Leuven is a research-intensive, internationally oriented university that carries out both fundamental and applied scientific research. Our university is highly inter- and multidisciplinary focused and strives for international excellence. In this regard we actively work together with research partners in Belgium and abroad.

You will work in Leuven, a historic, dynamic and lively city located in the heart of Belgium, within 20 minutes from Brussels, the capital of the European Union, and less than two hours from Paris, London and Amsterdam.


For more information please contact Prof. Jaak Monbaliu, tel.: +32 16 32 16 61, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than January 31, 2022 via the
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
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: January 31, 2022
  • Tags: Burgerlijke Bouwkunde

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