Postdoc Position in High-Performance Software Development for Numerical Simulations of Plastic Litter in the Ocean

Utrecht University



Job Description

Plastic in the ocean is a major problem, but our understanding of the distribution, pathways and fate of the plastic litter is very limited. The project ‘Tracking Of Plastics In Our Seas’ (, funded by the European Research Council, will create a novel comprehensive modelling framework that simulates plastic movement through the ocean, and uses that framework to significantly improve the understanding of the plastic pollution in our oceans.

We are seeking a postdoc to join the TOPIOS team as a software developer. The postdoc will accelerate development of a novel, highly efficient open-source code to track billions of individual virtual pieces of plastic through high-resolution ocean data. Building on the OceanParcels framework, the postdoc will develop, code, test and analyse what is aimed to become the world’s most sophisticated Lagrangian ocean modelling code. Development will focus on parallelization of the code and further improvements to the efficiency and scalability of the code.

Working within a team, the postdoc will use this code on High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities to investigate how ocean currents move plastic around the ocean, by tracking billions of individual particles in high-resolution numerical models. The postdoc will support PhD, MSc and BSc students with the running of the OceanParcels code.

  • PhD (desirable) or MSc in Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Physics or similar field;
  • Very strong programming skills (preferably python and C);
  • Proven experience with the development of complex scientific models;
  • Proven experience with software development practices such as version control and unit-testing;
  • Ability to work as an independent researcher within a wider research team;
  • Ability to perform and publish high quality research, demonstrated for instance by a strong publication record in international peer-reviewed journals;
  • Excellent level of written and spoken English.
  • Proven affinity with physical oceanography.
  • Proven experience with High Performance Computing techniques and facilities

The candidate is offered a full-time position for 1 year with a possibility for a 1.5 years extension. The gross salary, depending on the candidate’s qualifications and work experience, is in the range between €2,552 and maximum €4,691 (scale 10/11 Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) gross per month for a full time employment. 

The salary is supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition we offer: a pension scheme, a partially paid parental leave, flexible employment conditions. The research group will provide the candidate with necessary support on all aspects of the project. For further information: working at Utrecht University.

About the Organization

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability. 

The city of Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with a charming old center and an internationally oriented culture that is strongly influenced by its century-old university. Utrecht city has been consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the Netherlands. 

The Faculty of Science consists of six departments: Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Information and Computing Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Mathematics. The Faculty is home to 5,600 students and nearly 1,500 staff and is internationally renowned for the quality of its research. The Faculty's academic programmes reflect developments in today's society. 

The mission of the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU) is to contribute to the basic science of the oceans, atmosphere and cryosphere. This knowledge is used in studies on climate change and the possible implications for mankind.

Additional Information
Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from Dr Erik van Sebille.

To apply please attach a letter of motivation, curriculum vitae and (email) addresses of two referees. Application deadline is 15 September 2019. To apply, please click the application button below.

Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

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