PhD Position in Learning and Stochastic Optimization for Power Networks

VU University of Amsterdam Department of Mathematics

Designing and operating sustainable, carbon-free, yet reliable energy systems is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. The increasing adoption of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, introduces significant amounts of uncertainty in power systems, which will continue to rise in the march towards 100% clean energy future. Do you want to contribute to this challenge using advanced mathematical methods and data-driven algorithms? Do you have a strong background in stochastic modeling and optimization? Then please apply for this PhD position at the department of Mathematics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).


FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

The Department of Mathematics of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam welcomes applications for a fully-funded, 4-year PhD position focusing on stochastic modeling, network optimization and learning algorithms. The main motivations behind this project are the optimal design and reliable operations of power transmission systems, probably one of the most critical networks in modern-day society. These networks are rapidly evolving due to ambitious sustainability goals, but safely managing with existing methods the increasing uncertainty due to renewable energy sources affecting them will soon turn unfeasible or uneconomical. The project aims at using and expanding mathematical knowledge to better understand and optimize these complex networks, especially in combination with the large amount of newly-available data. The PhD candidate will use modern methods in optimization, applied probability, operations research, and learning theory to develop both new theory and algorithms. In this project you will work under the supervision of Alessandro Zocca and be part of the Analytics & Optimization group of the Mathematics Department. The preferred starting date is 1 September 2021 or sooner.

Your duties

  • doing research towards writing a PhD thesis
  • teaching tasks (roughly 15% of your time), which typically consist of supervising exercise classes and correcting homework


  • a master's degree in (Applied) Mathematics or Operations Research (or equivalent thereof) with excellent results
  • a solid background in stochastic modelling and optimization
  • strong data-analytics and programming skills
  • preferably proven research talent, an excellent command of English, and good academic writing and presentation skills

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. On full-time basis the remuneration amounts to a minimum gross monthly salary of €2,395 (at the start) and a maximum €3,061 (in the fourth year). The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for 0.8-1.0 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for further 3 years. Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:

  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • good paid parental leave scheme

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.


We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science

The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.

The Department of Mathematics

The Department of Mathematics strives for excellence in research. The department balances pure mathematical research with mathematical research motivated by applications. Researchers in the department are on one hand active at a fundamental and theoretical level, and, on the other hand, work on applications with links to business, the sciences, and societal issues. The department has a strong international research staff with expertise in pure mathematics, analysis, statistics, applied probability, and optimization. 


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button by June 1, 2021 and upload: a cover letter, a CV, a list of courses and grades at the MSc level, a (draft) MSc thesis if available, and the names and e-mail addresses of two references. 

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions

If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Alessandro Zocca
Position: Assistant Professor of Mathematics