KU Leuven

Maestro Postdoctoral Position: the Winds of Hot Massive Stars

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Om arbetsgivaren

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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(ref. BAP-2021-212)

The Institute of Astronomy (IoA) of KU Leuven is a young and vibrant research group of some 80 scientists, engineers, and administrative staff, including 6 full-time and 3 part-time professors. The institute is an expertise centre in stellar physics and astrophysical instrumentation, 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 Master of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the 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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Throughout the Universe, the dynamics and chemical evolution of spiral galaxies like our Milky Way are largely controlled by the lives and deaths of stars with masses many times that of the Sun. The evolution of these massive stars, in turn, is highly regulated by their multiplicity and by the mass and angular momentum exchanged through binary interaction, and by the huge amounts of mass expelled from their surfaces by means of powerful starlight-driven wind outflows. These fundamental properties critically determine how these massive stars live and die and control the nature and properties of the compact remnants – neutron stars and black holes – that are left behind. In close binaries, these compact objects may merge, producing intense bursts of gravitational waves (GW) that can be detected by current interferometers.  In this broad context, various large observational, theoretical and instrumental projects have been undertaken at KU Leuven to obtain new constraints on the evolution of gravitational wave progenitors and to pave the way towards even more sensitive GW observations by future ground-based and spaceborne GW interferometers.

Led by 4 academic members of the Institute of Astronomy at KU Leuven (Decin, Sana, Sundqvist, de Koter), the MAESTRO project aims to fundamentally improve our understanding of the driving mechanism of massive star winds, both hot and cool by bridging the theoretical, computational, and observational KU Leuven’s expertise in the field of stellar winds. Members of  MAESTRO team are heavily involved in the (XSH)ULLYSES collaboration, aiming at further our understanding of hot star winds through the analysis of a large representative sample of UV-optical spectroscopy of massive stars at different metallicity environments. 

The Vacancy

Through an ERC-CoG and other fundings, the KU Leuven Institute of Astrophysics is advertising 4 PhD and 2 Postdoc positions. The selected candidates will join the broad KU Leuven’s effort to unravel the physics and evolution of gravitational wave progenitors as part of an international network of collaborators. The funding for these 6 positions is already secure, but more positions may be available depending on the interest and quality of the applicants, and on the results of upcoming funding applications. Here the MAESTRO-PD position is described.

The winds of hot massive stars through quantitative UV-optical spectroscopy : The selected PD candidate will join the effort of the MAESTRO team (Decin, Sundqvist, Sana, de Koter) in the analysis and interpretation of high-quality UV and optical observations collected in the framework of the (XSH)-ULLYSES project to characterize atmospheric and wind properties of massive stars in different metallicity environments. The selected candidates will pay particular attention to the surface abundances and the geometrical and dynamical wind properties of these stars using state-of-the-art retrieval methods currently developed at KU Leuven and Amsterdam. The final goal will be to study the morphology and mass-loss evolution of their winds.  Theoretically inclined candidates with interest in developing atmosphere atmosphere models and/or retrieval methods are welcome to apply as well.  


Post-doc applicants must hold a PhD in astrophysics, or an equivalent diploma. The ideal candidates will have a strong observational and data analysis background, including expertise relevant for the projects they are applying to. This encompass but is not limited to spectroscopic analysis of massive single and/or binary stars, spectral disentangling, atmosphere analysis and/or expertise with relevant codes such as CMFGEN, FASTWIND, POWR, or equivalent codes. Prior-experience with UV, optical and/or IR observations and facilities such as the HST, ESO/VLT (Xshooter, Uves, Sphere, Muse, KMOS, …), or JWST, or similar facilities, or relevant modelling or theoretical background will be viewed positively by the selection committee. 


The selected Postdoc will be offered a 1+1-year contract, with the additional 1-year being awarded after positive evaluation. The salary will be commensurate to the standard scale for post-doc researcher 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. The foreseen starting date shall be between October 1st, 2021 and January 1st, 2022 but can be negotiated towards earlier or later dates. 

The postdoc will be encouraged to take up training in science and people management, science communication and grant application writing with the aim to develop a personal independent career track.


The application package should contain:

  • (i) a curriculum vitae, with a publication list if relevant;
  • (ii) a statement of interest (max. 2 page); 
  • (iii) a summary of previous research experience (max.  3 pages text and up to 2 pages of figures)

Applicants must also provide the names and contact details of two references who are prepared to send confidential recommendation letters should they be requested to do so. The short-listed applicants will be invited for an interview (live or via videoconference depending on the distance and sanitary conditions).

Further information on the position and on the project may be obtained by contacting the promotor Prof. Hugues Sana or by phone (+32-16-32 33 46) or any other promotor of these projects (jon.sundqvist / leen.decin @ kuleuven.be, a.dekoter@uva.be)

The application material should be submitted through the KU Leuven’s Job portal at the latest by April 04, 2021. Applications that do not strictly follow the application guidelines may not be properly processed and may therefore be lost. Members of minorities and underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply.

You can apply for this job no later than April 04, 2021 via the online application tool

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.

Om tjänsten

Maestro Postdoctoral Position: the Winds of Hot Massive Stars
Oude Markt 13, Belgien
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Om arbetsgivaren

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

Besök arbetsgivarsidan

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