In a conscious desire to increase its pool of highly specialized researchers and to strengthen its links with universities, SCK•CEN embarked in 1992 on a programme to support PhD candidates and post-doctoral researchers.
Why choose SCK•CEN to perform a thesis?
Available PhD thesis topics
When selected to start @ SCK•CEN
Initiatives for the PhD community @ SCK•CEN
Ongoing PhD research
Why choose SCK•CEN to perform a thesis?
Preparing your doctoral thesis at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre offers you the best of both worlds: you stay in close contact with the academic world and you enjoy a unique international research environment, with advanced nuclear experimental facilities and top-level guidance from our experts.
Furthermore, you participate in multidisciplinary research, either directly because of the characteristics of your own research topic or indirectly via exchanges with your colleagues in other nuclear domains.
Finally, you can benefit from the excellent reputation of the SCK•CEN Academy as an education & training centre and take advantage of the courses organised by the SCK•CEN Learning Centre.
PhD students should register at a pre-defined university, depending on the topic of their PhD. Although they are doctoral students at the university, they are based in Mol for the greater part of the time.
Available PhD thesis topics
View the available PhD thesis topics.
- View the practical guidelines.
- Applications can only be made online, by using the website (click on the “apply here” button indicated at the bottom of each topic). Any other form of application (electronic or written) will be rejected.
- Before applying, it is compulsory to first contact the SCK•CEN mentor for further information. The name of the mentor and his/her contact details are indicated with each topic.
- The online application form must be filled in as completely and as accurately as possible, and needs to include at least:
- two duly signed reference letters from scientific collaborators at a university or scientific institute, one of whom must be the applicant's final-year university Master thesis supervisor (i.e. the university professor who promoted the Master thesis), unless this person is also the promotor of the PhD thesis topic for which you are applying, in which case you should find a different referee. Please use the following template: Reference_letter_referee (.dotx, 19 kB) for these reference letters.
- one duly signed reference letter completed by the promoter of the PhD thesis topic for which you are applying. You should contact the PhD promoter via the SCK•CEN mentor. Please use the following template: Reference_letter_promoter (.dotx, 19 kB) for this reference letter.
- These letters should be uploaded by the applicant (strongly preferred), or can be sent directly by the referee to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the latter case, please note that we need to receive the e-mail the latest one day before the deadline of the submission of the files (see ”Timing”). The SCK•CEN mentor has to be in cc of this mail.
- Please note that only applications where all required documents and information are received before the deadline (see ”Timing”) will be considered.
- Candidates can apply for a maximum of two topics from the list of available topics. Candidates need to apply separately (online) for each topic and therefore introduce two application files.
- The application form will be evaluated by the SCK•CEN Scientific Council. When judged positively, the applicant will be invited to give an oral presentation on the research topic to a jury at SCK•CEN in Mol, Belgium. The various dates for these oral presentations have already been fixed and can be found in the section ”Timing”. Please reserve all these dates in your agenda, since the exact date and timing will be determined only later by the SCK•CEN Academy and cannot be changed.
- SCK•CEN does not reimburse travel or accommodation costs incurred in order to attend the oral presentation. We do offer a web conferencing system for applicants who have difficulties in travelling to Mol.
- Preference is given to candidates who have obtained a Master degree (or equivalent) with at least distinction in the final year. The period between being awarded the Master degree and the planned starting date of the PhD should not exceed 5 years.
- Citizens of States that have not signed/ratified the Non Proliferation Treaty are excluded from R&D topics related to the nuclear fuel cycle.
- The final decision about your application will be taken after the oral presentation, and will be announced following the instructions in ”Timing”.
- All additional enquiries regarding your application and the application procedure should be made via e-mail to email@example.com.
Deadline for applications: March 27, 2019
First step: selection based on application file: April 26, 2019
Second step: oral presentation on the research topic: May 27 & 28, 2019
Notification final result: June 30, 2019
Standard start date: October 1, 2019
Welcome session at SCK•CEN (see below): November 15, 2019 from 14.30 until 17.00 h
When selected to start at SCK•CEN
When a PhD candidate is selected to start the PhD research project, he/she will be contacted and informed by e-mail by the SCK•CEN Academy for Nuclear Science and Technology, together with the mentor(s) and promoter(s). The following administrative steps have to be undertaken by the PhD candidate after receipt of that e-mail:
- The PhD student contacts his/her university promoter in order to start the appointment process at the university.
- The university promoter will contact the Human Resources department within his/her financial antenna and he/she will give instructions to start up the appointment process for the PhD student. This appointment process includes the following three steps:
1: The PhD candidate needs to obtain the Academic admission to the doctoral programme.
Depending on the nationality of the PhD student and the origin of the Master diploma, the appointment process can differ and the PhD student might be asked to submit different documents.
A minimum of information that needs to be transferred:
If the PhD student is accepted to the doctoral school, he/she will be informed by the doctoral school admission department and he/she can go to the next step in the process: the enrolment at the university.
- Personal details, address and contact information;
- Academic information: language skills, certificates of language proficiency, education, …;
2: The PhD student needs to enrol at the university. Please ask the correct documents to your university promotor or to your HR contact person (for most of the universities, this is an online enrolment process).
3: The PhD student needs to receive and sign a contract with the university, with a starting date similar to the starting date of the research agreement that will be set up between SCK•CEN and the university (see next point).
- In a parallel process, the SCK•CEN Academy draws up a research agreement between the university and SCK•CEN in order to settle the basic modalities between both organisations. The PhD student does not have to sign this agreement. The university needs a signed copy of this agreement in order to open a budget line for the PhD student which has to be coupled to the submitted and approved registration form of the PhD student.
- Please take into account that the standard time for the appointment process takes at least 6 weeks for EU candidates and at least 3 months for non EU candidates. Candidates will only obtain a university admission letter when their application for all processes has a positive result. With the admission/tuition letter, provided by the university administration, foreign students can apply for a visa. Once arrived in Belgium, the foreign PhD student has to register at the Foreigners Office in Mol and needs to provide the following documents:
- a birth certificate;
- a medical attestation;
- an extract of the criminal record;
- 3 photos (passport size).
- When the PhD student wants to rent an SCK•CEN accommodation (dormitory or studio), he/she needs to contact the HR department of SCK•CEN (traineesHR@sckcen.be).
- Furthermore, SCK•CEN needs approval of FANC (Federal Agency for Nuclear Control) for the student’s access to the SCK•CEN technical site. SCK•CEN needs to complete a file containing a request for security verification and has to add an extract of criminal record of your home country.
Please send to the HR department (traineesHR@sckcen.be) an extract of criminal record of your home country with official translation in Dutch, English, French or German. After receiving the extract, this will be sent immediately to the SCK•CEN Access Control department.
Initiatives for the PhD community at SCK•CEN
The buddy system
Every new PhD student will be supervised by an SCK•CEN mentor and a university promoter. In addition, a PhD “buddy” (a second or third year SCK•CEN PhD student) will help the new PhD student with the -sometimes complex- formalities in our organisation and at the university, and will make the new student feel at home at SCK•CEN and in the Mol area.
During the month of October/November, the SCK•CEN Academy organises a dedicated welcome session for all new PhD students and their buddies, their SCK•CEN mentors and university promoters. Prof dr Eric van Walle, General Manager of SCK•CEN and Dr Michèle Coeck, Head of the SCK•CEN Academy for Nuclear Science and Technology present SCK•CEN, its research and its education and training activities. This information session is followed by an interactive “speed dating” event of 1 hour during which the new PhD student can make acquaintance with all other PhD students at SCK•CEN. The event is closed with a reception at the SCK•CEN Lakehouse. Next welcome session will be organised on Friday November 9, 2018 from 14.30 until 17.00 h, followed by a reception.
Participation to training courses, summer schools and conferences
PhD students are invited to a broad offer of courses (organised for SCK•CEN personnel in the frame of continuous professional development) dealing with scientific and technical topics, but also related to personal skills development and typical SCK•CEN issues. An introductory course on radiation protection, environment, security and industrial safety issues is mandatory for anyone performing activities at the SCK•CEN offices and laboratories. The training courses “Scientific Writing and Speaking” and the language courses are highly recommended to all PhD students.
PhD students are also encouraged to participate to summer schools in the domain of their research topic and to present their research results at conferences and workshops.
Those who have an interest can also apply for lecturing in SCK•CEN Academy events.
The SCK•CEN Academy provides an annual budget for each PhD student to participate in training courses, conferences or summer schools.
Twice a year, the SCK•CEN Academy organises a “Day of the PhD’s” in the SCK•CEN Lakehouse. This event aims at bringing together all our young scientific researchers, their promoters and colleagues at the universities, their mentors and other scientific collaborators at SCK•CEN, the members of SCK•CEN's Scientific Council and SCK•CEN’s management, in order to present and discuss the ongoing PhD research.
Participation is compulsory for PhD students and mentors. University promoters and other colleagues involved in the research work are strongly encouraged to be present.
The aim of these informal meetings is to stimulate and facilitate interactions between our PhD students and to give a forum for discussing scientific and practical issues, but also to offer a broader look to nuclear science and applications.
Ongoing PhD research
View the ongoing PhD research at SCK•CEN.
View the PhDs obtained.