PhD Position in Nuclear and Radiation Physics

Catholic University of Leuven


The Institute of Nuclear and Radiation Physics (IKS) is active in the fields of nuclear physics for fundamental and societal research. It has about 50 researchers and 5 professors, and graduates 3-5 PhD students per year. The IKS expertise is situated in radioactive and stable ion beam research and applications, and nuclear physics research with laser, decay, orientation and reaction techniques. Within the IKS, the Interdisciplinary Research Group of Prof T.E. Cocolios specializes in bridging from the fundamental research towards applications of nuclear physics in particular in nuclear medicine with active collaborations with the university hospital UZ Leuven and the Belgian Nuclear Research Center SCK-CEN. LISA (Laser Ionisation and Spectroscopy of the Actinides) is a 4-year Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) for the career development of 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) across 12 host institutions across Europe, with the assistance of 14 academic and industrial partners. As part of LISA, you will join a dynamic research team that values science, technology, creativity and quality. We encourage the exploration of new ideas and innovations. You will work with a supportive international consortium which includes other enthusiastic young scientists as well as some of the world's leaders in radioactive ion beam science and applications. As part of this project, you will contribute to research that combines the latest advances in laser technologies, radioactive ion beam science and atomic and nuclear theory to address some of the most challenging problems in nuclear and atomic physics.


Ac-225 is an α-emitting radioisotope that has been identified as particularly interesting for targeted α therapy (TAT) in the treatment of distributed cancers (e.g. metastatic cancer, cancer of the endocrine system) or as the generator of Bi-213, also used in TAT. Providing a reliable source of this radioisotope for clinical studies is however challenging, and even more so for its prospect for long-term clinical use. The current supply chain relies on the stockpile of U-233 that resulted from the XXth century military and civil nuclear research; this supply chain is however unreliable due to the high sensitivity of the material and its limited quantity.

Alternative nuclear-reaction-based production techniques are being investigated, but they all suffer from other limitations, especially in terms of the final product purity (mostly Ac-227 contamination). The use of resonance laser ionization combined with mass separation is a way through which samples may be purified or enriched to provide radioisotopes of a sufficient quality for medical use. However, the requirements for such production is very different from those of fundamental research, namely that high production intensities are encountered and that the final products purity and specific activity are of paramount importance, rather than the exoticity of the extracted isotope.

Within this position, the candidate shall quantify the properties of beams of actinium and radium radioisotopes produced with the isotope separation online (ISOL) technique briefly described above. They will then optimize the target and ion source geometries to maximize the production and extraction of Ac-225. They will apply their findings to provide regular supply of Ac-225 from the CERN MEDICIS facility to support (pre-)clinical research ongoing at the university hospital UZ Leuven. Finally, they will devise a route towards the sustainable use of the ISOL technique for the production of medical-grade doses of Ac-225.


We are looking for a motivated candidate with interest in lasers, nuclear physics, and its medical applications.
Knowledge of nuclear physics or nuclear engineering at a Master level is essential. Knowledge of atomic and laser physics is an added value.
As a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action Innovative Training Network, candidates must fulfill specific eligibility criteria (mobility, early career researcher, ...) and apply centrally to the LISA recruitment site with the link provided.
Moreover, the selected candidate will become a full part of the LISA ITN, where special attention will be given to training, skills & professionalization, scientific communication and networking beyond the pure research aspects of the position.


As a successful candidate, you will be offered the following for the position:

  • 4-year PhD position within the IKS Interdisciplinary Research Group under the supervision of Prof T.E. Cocolios
  • Attractive salary and mobility allowance (+ family allowance if eligible)
  • A stimulating working environment at a world-leading institution
  • Access to state-of-the-art facilities on site
  • Collaboration with national and international facilities (SCK-CEN, CERN) and with medical institutions (UZ Leuven, UZ Brussels, UZ Gent)
Within the LISA ITN, you will also be offered the following:
  • Academic and professionalization training across Europe by world-leaders in their fields
  • Networking opportunities across Europe, Canada, Japan, the USA and many more through and extended range of partners in the academic, research and industrial world
  • Secondment placements at TRIUMF (research lab in BC, Canada), LIOP-TEC (industry in Germany), and CERN (research lab in Switzerland)


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Thomas Elias Cocolios, tel.: +32 16 32 31 16, mail: or Prof. dr. Piet Van Duppen, tel.: +32 16 32 72 72, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than April 30, 2020 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: April 30, 2020
  • Tags: Wetenschappen
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