PhD student - Research Engineer / Scientist (M/F)

Job description and associated tasks

In the framework of a research project financed by the Belgian Defense, we are looking for a full-time research scientist/engineer with a master degree in Engineering Sciences, training/experience in physiological signal processing, and willing to pursue a PhD.

Context

The Royal Military Academy of Belgium (RMA) is a military institution responsible for the basic academic, military and physical training of future officers and for the continuing advanced training of officers during their active career in the Belgian Defense department (www.rma.ac.be). It is fully recognized as a university, fulfilling the same criteria as civilian universities. The Royal Military Academy is also conducting scientific research at university level for projects funded by the Belgian Defense or external sources.

You are responsible for the planning, execution and analysis of a series of biomedical experiments within a research project jointly conducted by the Centre for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (CHBO) of the Military Hospital Queen Astrid Brussels and the Vital Signs and Performance monitoring (VIPER) Research Unit of the RMA.

You conduct scientific research at university level on a project entitled “GEMINIDS: Development of an Adaptive Gas Exchange Model for Decompression Sickness Mitigation in Military Diving and High-Altitude Flying Operations ”.

The research offers the opportunity to pursue a PhD degree.

Study

The first part of the project aims to characterize the actual inert gas state during changing environmental and physiological conditions using experiments, and to develop a novel inert gas exchange model. In a second part, the obtained model is applied to specific military operations; the results of the analysis will allow providing a set of suggestions and operational recommendations to minimize the DCS risk while maximizing the operational capabilities. These issues are of greatest concern for the Belgian Defense.

Despite the current DCS mitigation measures, an actual occurrence of DCS is still anticipated during very-high-altitude mission, for both the A400M aircrew and parachute jumpers of the Special Operations Forces. Also, observations indicate that loadmasters are sensitive to develop DCS symptoms during VHA operations because they sometimes perform strenuous physical work at altitude, and they may encounter repeated altitude exposures with short ground intervals. Furthermore, the divers of the Belgian Navy, using the newly acquired commercial dive computer, using the current default algorithm settings, encounter operational limitations. These settings should in theory lead to safer dives - however, an initial analysis suggests that, contrarily, these conservative settings could potentially increase the risk of DCS. It would thus mean exposing the divers to a greater risk while reducing the operational capabilities. The successful completion of the project will allow to identify more accurately the actual DCS risk for our military personnel, and to provide a set of suggestions and operational recommendations to minimize the DCS risk while maximizing the operational capabilities.

Main tasks

  • Contribute to the development of the measurement setup (both hardware and software);
  • Develop analysis methods and numerical models for the construction of a biophysical gas exchange model;
  • Define the test matrix of the experimental runs;
  • Perform the inert gas exchange measurements;
  • Perform the analysis of the measurements;
  • Define and optimize operational decompression strategies, and formulate suggestions for high-altitude flying and diving operations. Report the obtained results at international conferences or workshops;
  • Write scientific papers in (peer-reviewed) international journals;
  • Prepare a PhD thesis in the framework of this project and in collaboration with other Belgian or foreign universities.

Skills/Requirements

Technical skills

The applicant shall have:

  • A master’s degree in engineering sciences, with an interest in aerospace or diving engineering;
  • Expert knowledge of currently employed inert gas decompression models in the military diving setting and capable of understanding the inner working principles of other common (diving and aerospace) decompression algorithms;
  • Experience in the participation/organisation of experimental test campaigns, preferably involving human test subjects in aerospace research studies;
  • Education in or experience with biomedical signal processing is mandatory;
  • Good programming skills in Matlab or Python is highly recommended. 
Personal skills
  • You conduct scientific research in an independent and upright way within a multidisciplinary environment;
  • You think in an innovative and creative way;
  • You communicate your results in a clear, concise and precise manner;
  • You take initiative;
  • You commit yourself in your job by giving the best of your aptitudes in striving toward the highest quality standards;
  • You are able to have a good contact with the volunteers participating to the tests;
  • Experience in underwater (SCUBA) diving is an added value.
Other skills
  • A very good written and spoken knowledge of English and one official national language (Dutch or French) is an absolute requirement;
  • A good working knowledge of the other official national language is a plus.

Specific requirements

  • The researcher may be exposed to confidential information and will therefore have to obtain the required security clearance. The candidate must consent with the background check required to obtain this clearance, which will be executed by Belgian Defense.

Miscellaneous

Points of contact

Others

 

  • Contract
    • Probable date of recruitment: October 1st, 2021;
    • Status: Full-time employment based on an open-ended contract with the Patrimony of the Royal Military Academy (you will not be a civil servant);
    • The study will last 4 years, until end September 2024;
    • Wage scale: A11 (holders of a Master Degree) / A21 (Ir or holders of a Master Degree in Engineering Sciences (Applied Sciences)). 
  • Extra-legal benefits
    • Possibility to obtain a bonus for bilingualism (Dutch/French);
    • Holiday pay;
    • End-of-year bonus;
    • Hospitalization insurance;
    • Bicycle allowance / Free public transport (home-work commute);
    • Free access to the on-campus sport infrastructure;
    • On-campus restaurant and cafeteria with discount on the daily menu .
  • Workplace 
    • Royal Military Academy, Avenue de la Renaissance 30, 1000 Brussels and Military Hospital Queen Astrid, Bruynstraat 1, 1120 Brussels;
    • Some experiments may be conducted in the Naval Base Zeebrugge, the Military Airport Melsbroek or in other locations.
Jobs

Application

You will be working in a military environment. For this reason, you will be subject to a security screening.

Please add to your job application a duly completed copy of the following security screening document (currently available only in Dutch or French).

Applicants shall send :

  • motivational letter;
  • a CV;
  • a scan of your ID card (both sides);
  • the filled out security document above.

To Dr Peter Germonpré, Dr Nathalie Pattyn, and to Dr Helena Bruyninckx.

Please mention clearly the reference of the project: HFM 21-06.

 

Application deadline: June 18, 2021.

The interviews will take place at the Royal Military Academy, Rue Hobbema 8, 1000 Brussels. In case of access restriction due to COVID-19 or non-Belgian application, on-line interviews will take place. The date and time of the interview will be communicated to the preselected candidates.