PhD Position in Mechanical Engineering

Catholic University of Leuven


(ref. BAP-2023-524)
The Thermal and Fluids Engineering research group headed by Prof. M. Baelmans focuses on modeling, numerical simulation, and optimization of thermal, fluid and kinetic transport phenomena. The research group is embedded in the Mechanical Engineering Department of KU Leuven, Europe’s most innovative university [Reuters], member of the EnergyVille research collaboration for sustainable energy research. Applications within the research group range from thermal management in electronic components, over heat transfer and storage devices to thermal networks and nuclear fusion reactors. Starting from dedicated component and system models, existing designs are critically reviewed and implicit design assumptions are challenged. This leads to innovative concepts and designs for electronic devices, coolers, heat exchangers and integrated energy systems. Due to a wide range of applications, a unique combination of expertise in theoretical models, CFD and advanced optimization techniques is available within the research group. Its close collaboration with renowned research institutions in the region such as IMEC, SCK-CEN and Forschungszentrum Juelich, as well as the expertise available in our comprehensive university, add on to the unique and inspiring research environment we create.


Compact heat exchangers become more and more crucial to meet future demands for cost-effective and energy-efficient energy systems in a wide range of applications, including e.g. light-weight mobile systems, compressors and ventilation systems.
The research group is presently looking for a motivated PhD researcher to work in the context of an interdisciplinary project that brings together research groups from KU Leuven and VITO to drastically improve the overall energy efficiency and material use for such compact heat exchangers, using emerging methods and methodologies in multiscale modeling, automated design and additive manufacturing (AM). In this project, the PhD student is responsible for the further development of the multiscale model, and the efficient shape optimization of the fin arrays in balanced compact heat exchangers, while accounting for constraints imposed by the AM process.  To do so, the PhD student will strongly collaborate within the TFE group and with KU Leuven’s renowned Additive Manufacturing research group and the other project partners.

While shape optimization based on computational fluid dynamics simulations has revolutionized the design of aerodynamic surfaces and channel surfaces over the last three decades, the development of these techniques for finned heat transfer devices is still an exciting and emerging research domain, in particular its inclusion in the overall heat exchanger design. Within this PhD project we investigate the practical use and limits of multiscale optimization of compact balanced heat exchangers. The research builds on the expertise in the TFE group on multiscale heat transfer modelling, simulation and optimization and on a state-of-the-art finite-element simulation and optimization software for large-scale flow and heat transfer simulations on the basis of the FEniCS software package, that paves the way to finally realize 3D optimal design of balanced compact heat exchangers.



You are a highly motivated, enthusiastic and communicative researcher, and you are strongly interested in the development of multiscale models, numerical simulation and optimization methods for heat exchangers. Moreover, you are a team player that enjoys collaborating with people within the research group, the project, and beyond, and have
  • A master’s degree in Engineering with a background in mechanical engineering, computer science, mathematical engineering, or related field, or a master degree in applied mathematics, from a reputable institute, with at least distinction, 
  • A background in related fields such as numerical modeling, fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer
  • The qualities to carry out independent research, demonstrated e.g., by the grades obtained on your M. Sc. thesis,
  • An excellent command of the English language, both in spoken and written form,
  • A critical mindset.

Additional research/educational experience in any of the following topics is considered a strong advantage:


  • Coding in languages such as Python and C++, 
  • Numerical optimization,
  • Parallel computing,
  • Flow solvers,
  • Heat transfer modelling.


    • A doctoral scholarship of four years and, if successful, a PhD in Engineering Science
    • A competitive salary and additional benefits such as health insurance, access to university sports facilities, etc.
    • The opportunity to be active in an exciting and international research environment, engage in research collaborations and participate at international conferences
    • A full-time employment for four years, with an intermediate evaluation after one year
    • An excellent doctoral training at the Arenberg Doctoral School in an international environment at a top European university. This will allow you to gain the skills required to successfully complete your PhD, as well as develop yourself as an independent researcher. Moreover, opportunities are provided to acquire deeper knowledge in subjects related to the topic by participating in trainings, summer schools, or lecture series in- and outside of KU Leuven
    • A flexible working culture with opportunity to up to 40% remote working
The successful candidate is expected to start as early as possible, upon agreement with Prof. Baelmans
targeted start date is to be agreed upon. 


Applicants should express their interest by sending an email to prof. Martine Baelmans via the dedicated email address email should *strictly* contain the following information in the text body, in bullets:
- Name 
- Master degree (Master specification, University + Country, Year obtained, Promotor) 
- Master thesis title 
- A one paragraph (up to half an A4 page) statement explaining the motivation for applying for this vacancy at KU Leuven.-Please also attach an academic CV to your email 
Do not directly apply in the online system as referred to below. This will be only necessary for selected candidates in a second stage.Note that if you do not receive a response to your email within three weeks, this means you have not been selected for the second stage.Decision: as soon as a suitable candidate applies (so do not wait untill the closing date to apply). 
For more information please contact prof.Martine Baelmans at
You can apply for this job no later than July 15, 2025 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: July 15, 2025
  • Tags: Werktuigkunde
  • Download: file

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