PhD thesis

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

Application guidelines


When selected to start @ SCK CEN

Initiatives for the PhD community @ SCK CEN

Ongoing PhD research

Obtained PhD


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.


Application guidelines

  1. View the practical guidelines.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. The online application form must be filled in as completely and as accurately as possible, and needs to include at least:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  5. These letters should be uploaded by the applicant (strongly preferred), or can be sent directly by the referee to 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.
  6. Please note that only applications where all required documents and information are received before the deadline (see ”Timing”) will be considered.
  7. 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.
  8. 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. 
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Transfer of knowledge towards countries that did not sign the non-proliferation treaty or of which the immaculate reputation regarding peaceful application of radioactivity, scientific integrity or respect of economic rules is questioned in an international context is conflicting with SCK CEN’s interests and values. The analysis of the applicant for a specific PhD project will be on a case by case basis based on a continuous interaction with the Federal Agency of Nuclear Control and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  12. The final decision about your application will be taken after the oral presentation, and will be announced following the instructions in ”Timing”.
  13. All additional enquiries regarding your application and the application procedure should be made via e-mail to



Important dates:

  • Deadline for your application: September 24, 2021
  • First step: selection based on application file: October 8, 2021
  • Second step: oral presentation of the research subject: October 29, 2021
  • Notification final result (the latest): November 1, 2021
  • Standard start date: December 1, 2021 (earliest)

When selected to start PhD research at SCK CEN

When a PhD applicant is selected to start a PhD research project at SCK CEN, he/she will be contacted and informed by e-mail by the SCK CEN Academy for Nuclear Science and Technology.

The following administrative steps have to be undertaken by the PhD student after receipt of that e-mail:

1. The PhD student contacts his/her university promoter in order to start the appointment process at the university.

The university promoter contacts the Human Resources department within his/her department and he/she will give instructions to start up the appointment process for the PhD student. This appointment process includes the following three steps:

  • The PhD candidate needs to obtain the Academic admission to the doctoral programme (doctoral school).
    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:
    1. Personal details, address and contact information;
    2. Academic information: language skills, certificates of language proficiency, diploma, …;
  • 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).
  • 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).

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. Upon arrival 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).

2. 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 agreement is the basis for a personal contract of the PhD student with his/her university.

3. In addition, SCK CEN needs approval from the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control before allowing the student to access the SCK CEN technical site. In order to draw up a request for security verification SCK CEN needs an extract of criminal record of the student's home country (with official translation in Dutch, English, French or German).  This should be sent to the SCK CEN HR department ( 

4. In case the PhD student prefers to rent an SCK CEN accommodation (dormitory or studio), he/she needs to contact the HR department of SCK CEN (

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.

Welcome session

During the month of October/November, the SCK CEN Academy organizes 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.

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.

PhD Days

Twice a year, the SCK CEN Academy organizes a “Day of the PhDs” 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.

Ongoing PhD research

View the ongoing PhD research at SCK CEN.


PhD obtained

View the PhDs obtained.