University of Groningen PhD Position in Exact Radiocarbon Dating Through the Pattern Matching of Single-Year Data 2017, Netherlands

Publish Date: Jul 31, 2017

Deadline: Sep 02, 2017

PhD in Exact Radiocarbon Dating through the Pattern Matching of Single-Year Data

Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education, offering both high-quality teaching and research. Balanced study and career paths across a wide variety of disciplines currently encourage more than 30,000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Amongst the finest research universities in Europe and the top 100 in the world, the University of Groningen is truly an international knowledge hub.

One PhD position is available at the Centre for Isotope Research (CIO) in the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering. The CIO is one of the world’s leading laboratories for isotope-based compositional and chronological studies. The radiocarbon dating unit is the longest-running in the world, started in the 1950s by Hessel de Vries. In 2017, the CIO moved into the brand-new Energy Academy Europe building and the laboratory has just begun operating a state-of-the-art MICADAS accelerator mass spectrometer capable of very high-precision radiocarbon measurements.

Job description

Topic of research: Development of a reliable approach to exact-year radiocarbon dating.

Exact-year radiocarbon dating has only recently become a viable prospect, spurred on by two methodological developments. First came the discovery that atmospheric radiocarbon levels can vary significantly from one year to the next, implying that it might be possible to match distinct sequences of data in samples with those in known-age material. At the same time, instrumental developments in accelerator mass spectrometry have resulted in a new generation of accelerators, which can produce extremely high-precision measurements. This PhD project aims to unite both these innovations by developing a robust method for achieving exact-year radiocarbon dating. The research will have practical and theoretical components. The former will involve learning the extraction of alpha-cellulose from tree-ring samples for radiocarbon analysis, and the latter will involve the development of reliable statistical methodologies for determining the similarity of suites of annual radiocarbon data. The intention is that the method will be used to obtain, and indeed underpin, the dates obtained for the ECHOES (Exact Chronology Of Early Societies) project. This study aims to secure the chronologies of early civilisations, such as the Maya and the Egyptians, to the exact calendar year for the first time. Such an achievement would push back the annual history of civilisation several thousand years.


Candidates should have a master degree in the physical or environmental sciences with an emphasis on data analysis. Experience in one or several of the following topics would be a plus: pattern matching of data, time series and sequence analysis, radiocarbon dating and isotope science. Practical laboratory experience would also be an asset. The successful applicant will be expected to work both independently and alongside team members in Groningen and abroad. All teaching at Groningen is conducted in English, so Dutch is not a requirement.

The PhD is funded by a European Research Council grant entitled Exact Chronology of Early Societies (ECHOES) led by Dr Michael Dee.

Conditions of employment

The University of Groningen offers a gross salary for this role from € 2,222 per month in the first year, increasing to € 2,840 in the final year (PhD salary scale Dutch Universities). On top of our annual salaries, we provide an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus, both as a percentage of the gross annual salary. All PhD candidates at the University of Groningen are required to spend 10% of their time on teaching. Favourable tax agreements may also apply to non-Dutch applicants. It is a full-time appointment, for a fixed term of 48 months. The start date is negotiable but autumn 2017 is preferred.

The position requires residence in Groningen and must result in a PhD thesis within the 4-year contract period. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and the successful candidate will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Science and Engineering. The successful candidate will first be offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the next three years is to be expected.

Applications, including a letter of motivation, a curriculum vitae, and the contact information of two academic referees, must be submitted until 1 September / before 2 September 2017 Dutch local time, by means of the application form (click on "Apply" on the advertisement on the university website).

All applications received before the closing date will be given full consideration.

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


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