PLATO PhD position in the payload development activities – KU Leuven

PLATO 4-year PhD open position to work on bridging the payload development activities with the (core and complementary) science activities of the PLATO mission @ KU Leuven

The KU Leuven (NL) PLATO team welcomes applications for a 4-year PhD position to work on bridging the payload development activities with the (core and complementary) science activities of the PLATO mission through a set of realistic simulations to be developed and performed with the PlatoSim software.

The KU Leuven PLATO team coordinates all Belgian activities in the PLATO mission, is actively involved in the payload development, and is responsible for organization and coordination of the PLATO Complementary Science. The payload activities concern camera assembly, integration, and testing, as well as the development and support of the PLATO mission simulator (PlatoSim). The latter is an end-to-end software tool designed to perform realistic simulations of the expected observations of the PLATO mission. PLATO Complementary Science activities concern exploitation of the PLATO photometric data in the research areas outside the PLATO core science, to maximize overall scientific output of the mission.

Starting date: flexible, preferably not later than 01/01/2021.
Applications until: October 15th 2020
Where: The Institute of Astronomy of KU Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200D, 3001 Leuven (Belgium)
Duration of the contract: 4 year
Salary: commensurate to the standard scale for PhD students in Belgium and it includes full social insurance as well as pension rights.


The successful applicant will perform research in the specific tasks:

  • get acquainted with the technical and scientific specifications of the PLATO mission, with a specific focus on the KU Leuven PLATO team activities concerning the payload and camera development;
  • get acquainted with the PlatoSim software tool at the level sufficient for developing and executing sets of realistic simulations to support the payload and PLATO science teams;
  • contribute to further development of PlatoSim in terms of implementation of relevant instrumental effects, if necessary;
  • develop, perform, and interpret sets of simulations to support the needs of the PLATO scientific community as to assessing in a quantitative way the capabilities of the PLATO instrument for specific research areas.

The work will be done in close collaboration with experts in stellar variability, space-based instrumentation and photometry at the Institute of Astronomy (IoA) of KU Leuven. Knowledge in astronomical instrumentation and space-based photometry, as well as in scientific programming is an asset.

As part of the doctoral requirements, the student will have to take up a teaching task of maximally 4 hours/week in one of the Bachelor (in Dutch) or Master (in English) programs of KU Leuven. PhD students at IoA are also required to perform at least one Mercator telescope observing run of 10 nights per year for the pooled IoA long-term monitoring programs.

Profile’s requirements 

PhD applicants must hold a M.Sc. degree in Physics, Astrophysics or Mathematics at an advanced level (e.g., a MPhys, MSc degree or equivalent). High proficiency in English is assumed. The short-listed applicants will be invited for an interview (via Skype).

How to apply 

The application package should be sent as one single PDF containing

  • a curriculum vitae, with a publication list if relevant;
  • a statement of interest (max. one page, including a brief description of research interests and relevant experience);
  • copies of university grades, certificates and/or diplomas;
  • names and contact details of 2 experts who are prepared to send confidential recommendation letters should they be requested to do so.

The application material should be sent as one single PDF by e-mail to with subject “PhD-PLATO-applicantname” latest by October 15th 2020.

Applications that do not strictly follow these guidelines will not be considered.

Full details can be found in the Job Offer published on the KU Leuven website.