KU Leuven

2 postdoctoral positions in "Hydrodynamics of winds and mass transfer in binary stars"

2023-12-10 (Europe/Brussels)
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KU Leuven is an autonomous university. It was founded in 1425. It was born of and has grown within the Catholic tradition.

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The BRAVE Project:
Intermediate and high-mass stars play a critical role in the evolution of their galactic and extragalactic environments, driving chemical evolution and regulating star formation. Many of these stars are formed in close binary systems and will strongly interact with their companion, therefore deviating significantly from evolutionary predictions for single stars. The rich variety of interaction channels allows us to probe exciting new outcome in stellar evolution, including stellar mergers, exotic supernovae, and gravitational wave sources. However, the complex three-dimensional processes that characterize binary interactions are not well understood, hampering the predictive power of evolutionary models. Progresses in this area is critical, as large scale observational programs (including gravitational wave observations) provide ever-growing samples of well characterized stellar populations.
In this context, the BRAVE project aims to tackle long-standing problems concerning (wind) Roche-lobe overflow. The BRAVE team combines expertise on the observation and theory of stellar outflows (both from hot and cool stars), the characterisation of binary systems in multiple evolutionary stages, and the theory of single and binary star evolution. Funded by the KU Leuven, one of Belgium's most prominent universities, the BRAVE project bridges the theoretical, computational, and observational expertise of four academic members of the Institute of Astronomy at KU Leuven, to build an interdisciplinary team tackling the above critical stellar physics questions with the aim to enhance the predictive power of contemporary evolution models of binary stars.

The Host Institute:
The Institute of Astronomy (IoA) of KU Leuven consists of a young and vibrant research group of some 90 scientists, engineers, and administrative staff, including 6 full-time and 3 part-time professors. The institute is an expertise centre in stellar and planetary physics and is active in several international consortia and collaborations, involving telescopes at observatories worldwide and in space. Members of IoA have access to parallel computing facilities at the Flemish Supercomputer Centre. The IoA is responsible for the organisation of the 2-year Master in Astronomy & Astrophysics and Advanced Master of Space Studies of the Faculty of Science and operates the 1.2m Mercator telescope at Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma Observatory, Canary Islands. The institute has a long tradition in instrumental, observational, and theoretical studies of stellar evolution.

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The Vacancy:
The Institute of Astronomy of the KU Leuven (Belgium) seeks two highly motivated and excellent applicants to take on important roles in the BRAVE project. Applications are invited for two post-doc position financed through a prestigious research grant (C1) from the KU Leuven university. The selected candidate will join the BRAVE team to work on one of two subjects connected to hydrodynamical modelling of binary interactions. The selected candidate will be member of an international network of collaborators developing new theoretical methods needed to advance our understanding of intermediate and high-mass binary systems. 
Here, we specifically advertise the two following post-doc positions (with preferred starting date February-April 2024): 
  • Post-doc position 1: Hydrodynamics of (wind) Roche-lobe overflow – The post-doc will make use of tools developed in-house to perform radiation-hydrodynamic simulations of stellar systems. These will be applied to model outflows from Roche-lobe filling systems onto their binary companions, as well as to model the interplay between winds and binary evolution in the case of underflowing systems. In particular, the post-doc will produce the first detailed studies of accretion flows onto critically rotating stars.
  • Post-doc position 2: Hydro-chemical models of (AGB) outflows in the presence of binary companions – The post-doc will produce the first comprehensive set of simulations of wind Roche lobe overflow including novel chemical evolution and cooling models. These simulations will probe the impact of wind-orbit coupling on orbital evolution, and the impact of non-spherical structure on the determination of mass loss rates. Simulations will be coupled with in-house radiative transfer solvers to compare to current as well as scheduled ALMA observations.


Post-doc applicants must hold a PhD in astrophysics or an equivalent diploma. The ideal candidate has a strong theoretical and numerical background. Expertise in radiation hydrodynamics will be viewed positively by the selection committee, but is not a requirement. Proficiency in English is required. 


The selected post-docs will be offered a 2-year contract with a possible extension of 1 year. The salary will be commensurate to the standard scale for post-doctoral researchers in Belgium and will depend on the number of years of experience after PhD. It includes social and medical insurance as well as pension rights. Working hours are flexible and there is possibility to work occasionally from home. Refund of commuting expenses when using public transport or bicycle are included. The KU Leuven offers access to child care. The preferred starting date shall be between February 1st 2024 and May 1st 2024 but can be negotiated. 

The post-doc will also be encouraged to take up supervision tasks and training in science and people management, science communication and grant application writing with the aim to develop a personal independent career track

Interviews will be held in
January 2024 and selected candidates will be contacted at the latest by January 31, 2024.


Your application should include

  • a bio-sketch in which you demonstrate the added value as an academic researcher for your core tasks of research and services in your past career and for their future activities, including your five most important publications or realisations (maximum 2 pages);
  • an extensive CV (including a complete publication list);
  • a research plan with attention to the development of a research line and associated research team with an eye for collaboration with fellow researchers within the host institute (maximum 2 pages);
  • contact information of 2 referees.


For more information, please contact 

Prof. Leen Decin: email (Leen.Decin@kuleuven.be)

Prof. Hugues Sana: email (Hugues.Sana@kuleuven.be)

Prof. Jon Sundqvist: email (Jon.Sundqvist@kuleuven.be)

Dr. Pablo Marchant: email (Pablo.Marchant@kuleuven.be)

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 diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.

Job details

2 postdoctoral positions in "Hydrodynamics of winds and mass transfer in binary stars"
Oude Markt 13 Leuven, Belgium
Application deadline
2023-12-10 23:59 (Europe/Brussels)
2023-12-10 23:59 (CET)
Job type
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About the employer

KU Leuven is an autonomous university. It was founded in 1425. It was born of and has grown within the Catholic tradition.

Visit the employer page