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PhD Position Design and Construction of Topologically Reconfigurable Modular Structural Systems

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

Delft, Netherlands
Posted on Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Job description

We are looking for a PhD student eager to tackle the exciting challenge of developing modular structural systems that strike a trade-off between structural and construction efficiency for automated and circular construction through topological reconfigurability. This work questions structures that are either mechanically optimized for a unique use or inefficiently rationalized for construction reasons. A modular system should be considered holistically, from design to construction, to provide the desired design flexibility enabled by the available construction technology. This PhD position can cover some or all of the following aspects: 1. assessing the potential of structural modularity for complex structural systems; 2. design/exploration of the catalogue of modules and their assembled configurations, aiming for the generation of a design space of efficient structures with a minimum number of buildable modules, while retaining architectural expression; 3. computation/optimization of efficient topological configurations and reconfigurations in different scenarios; and 4. engineering/fabrication/assembly of modules with reversible joints, leveraging digital construction for design freedom and mass production.

The position is located within the department Mechanics, Management & Design (3MD). 3MD focuses on the design, mechanics, materials and management of civil infrastructures and buildings. A multi-scale research approach is followed, starting at micro-scale (materials), to meso-scale (structures) and to macro-scale (infrastructures/systems). The department governs the entire life cycle from develop, design, build, maintain, operate to demolish or reuse and has strong competences in modelling and design for both civil infrastructures as well as buildings. Within the department, the position is embedded in the group Structural Design & Building Engineering (SD&BE). .


We are interested in a PhD contact with the following profile:


  • Excellent communication skills in English (oral and written);
  • Creativity, organization, autonomy;
  • Computational skills (scripting and modeling, for example Python and Rhino3D/Grasshopper3D);
  • Interest in prototyping and digital construction lab work;
  • Master’s degree in Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering, Architectural Engineering, Building Technology, or other relevant degree.


  • Experience in academic or industrial research;
  • Experience in digital construction, automation, robotics, 3D printing or else;
  • Experience in multidisciplinary projects;
  • Interest in supporting teaching and advising activities of undergraduate students.

Doing a PhD at TU Delft requires English proficiency at a certain level to ensure that the candidate is able to communicate and interact well, participate in English-taught Doctoral Education courses, and write scientific articles and a final thesis. For more details please check the Graduate Schools Admission Requirements.

Conditions of employment

Doctoral candidates will be offered a 4-year period of employment in principle, but in the form of 2 employment contracts. An initial 1,5 year contract with an official go/no go progress assessment within 15 months. Followed by an additional contract for the remaining 2,5 years assuming everything goes well and performance requirements are met.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2770 per month in the first year to € 3539 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. 

For international applicants, TU Delft has the Coming to Delft Service. This service provides information for new international employees to help you prepare the relocation and to settle in the Netherlands. The Coming to Delft Service offers a Dual Career Programme for partners and they organise events to expand your (social) network.

TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!

Faculty Civil Engineering & Geosciences

The Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEG) is committed to outstanding international research and education in the field of civil engineering, applied earth sciences, traffic and transport, water technology, and delta technology. Our research feeds into our educational programmes and covers societal challenges such as climate change, energy transition, resource availability, urbanisation and clean water. Our research projects are conducted in close cooperation with a wide range of research institutions. CEG is convinced of the importance of open science and supports its scientists in integrating open science in their research practice. The Faculty of CEG comprises 28 research groups in the following seven departments: Materials Mechanics Management & Design, Engineering Structures, Geoscience and Engineering, Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Transport & Planning, Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Civil Engineering & Geosciences.

Additional information

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Robin Oval, e-mail:  

For information about the application procedure, please contact mrs. Desirée de Jong, email:   

Application procedure

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply no later than 3 december 2023 via the application button and upload:

  • Detailed CV (max. 2 pages);
  • Cover letter including relevant experience and research interest (max. 2 pages);
  • Portfolio of previous work if applicable (max. 5 pages);
  • Contact details of two references.   

Please note:

  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • A pre-Employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.