Are you the enthusiastic, highly motivated and skilled potential PhD candidate who would like to study the flight control and maneuverability of Dipteran insects? And would you like to apply your resulting knowledge to the development of bio-inspired robotic flyers? Then you might be the PhD-candidate we are looking for!

Dipteran insects are highly maneuverable and sophisticated flyers, and include the annoying house fly, the elegant hover fly, and the deadly malaria mosquito. They are unique in having halteres, which are small sensory organs that operate as biological gyroscopes, and that are the key to their extreme flight maneuverability.

As a PhD candidate, you will study the maneuverability and control of Dipteran flight, to answer how the various species Diptera are optimized for flight stability and maneuverability. This will provide both fundamental insights into the flight control of flapping wing systems, and bio-inspiration for the development of flying robots.

The study is part of an international Dipteran flight project, led by the Experimental Zoology Group at Wageningen UR, and in collaboration with international experts in biology, physics and engineering. At the Experimental Zoology Group, you will have access to dedicated insect flight wind tunnels with state-of-the-art camera systems to record 3D wingbeat kinematics in freely maneuvering insects. The Experimental Zoology Group also has an in-house computational cluster for modelling the aerodynamic and control of insect flight. Facilities at our collaborators include robotics development and manufacturing systems, and even a freely-flying flapping-wing robot to test the applicability of your results in robotics.

We ask

For this interdisciplinary project, we are looking for a highly motivated and skilled PhD candidate with a recent university MSc degree (or equivalent) in engineering, (bio)physics or biology. Specific requirements are:

  • Strong analytical skills and innovative attitude
  • Good engineering and programming skills (e.g. Matlab/Python/CFD software)
  • A clear affinity with the field of (bio)mechanics and/or control theory
  • The candidate should be a team player with excellent communication skills
  • Good proficiency in English (both oral and written)

For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page.

We offer

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:

  • sabbatical leave, study leave, and partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.541,- per month rising to € 3.247,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “ Best University ” in the Netherlands for the 17th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research’s International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues

Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organisation and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR.

More information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr Ir Florian T. Muijres, associate professor, telephone +31 317 486977 or by e-mail
For more information about the procedure, please contact Ine van ‘t Land, corporate recruiter bij e-mail

How to apply

You can apply directly by uploading your CV and motivation letter, using the apply button on the vacancy page on our website which will allow us to process your personal information with your approval.

This vacancy will be listed up to and including October 1st, 2022. We will schedule the job interviews in October 2022.

Applications have to be submitted via the Wageningen UR online application system. Candidates are requested to upload the following information to the website: 

  • Letter of motivation
  • CV, including GPA (Grade Point Average) or equivalent in your Bachelor and Master education
  • Names and contact information for two references 

We are

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,200 employees (6,400 fte) and 13,200 students and over 150.000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

The Experimental Zoology Group
You will participate in a multidisciplinary international consortium, led by dr ir Florian Muijres from the Experimental Zoology Group at WUR. Our primary goal is to provide fundamental insights into the maneuverability and control of animal flight, and to provide bio-inspiration for the development of flying robots. The consortium consists of an interdisciplinary team at the Experimental Zoology Group, and partners at Wageningen University, Delft University of Technology, the Natural History Museum at Paris, France, and Freiburg University, Germany.

The mission of the Experimental Zoology Group is to unravel the relationships between form and function in zoological systems in a developmental and evolutionary context. The group is world leading in studying the biomechanics and control of both fish swimming and insect flight. The project PI and direct supervisor dr ir Florian Muijres is an aerospace engineer with a PhD in biology, and an expert on the aerodynamics and control of maneuvering flight of animals.

Five publications from the consortium that are relevant for the project are:

  • Olejnik et al. (2022). Flying Into the Wind: Insects and Bio-Inspired Micro-Air-Vehicles With a Wing-Stroke Dihedral Steer Passively Into Wind-Gusts. Front Robot AI.
  • Goyal et al. (2021). Bumblebees land rapidly and robustly using a sophisticated modular flight control strategy. iScience.
  • Karásek et al. (2018). A tailless aerial robotic flapper reveals that flies use torque coupling in rapid banked turns. Science,
  • Dickinson & Muijres (2016). The aerodynamics and control of free flight Manoeuvres in Drosophila. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B,
  • Muijres et al. (2014). Flies Evade Looming Targets by Executing Rapid Visually Directed Banked Turns. Science,

Apply now

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