PhD position: spectroscopy of 2-dimensional electron systems in complex oxides


Research background

In the last few years, great progress has been achieved in the creation and fundamental exploration of unconventional 2-dimensional electron systems at interfaces between complex oxides. The iconic example of this highly active and global research field is the emergence of an interacting, 2D electron gases (2-DEGs) - which are metallic and also displays both magnetism and superconductivity - at the interface between the two insulating materials SrTiO3 and LaAlO3. The inherent richness of the physics of transition metal oxides means that given tailoring and effective external control of their transport and magnetism, these systems are front runners for the development of a future oxide electronics technology.

Dutch physics plays a leading role in this field, and recently a FOM-funded, national research programme on '2-dimensional electron systems in complex oxides', co-ordinated by Hans Hilgenkamp (MESA+, University of Twente) has been launched. This programme bundles a number of globally visible Dutch groups whose research spans activities from thin film growth and generation of (nano)devices (Twente, Delft, Leiden), through transport (Twente, Nijmegen, Delft) and high-field mangetotransport (Nijmegen) to spectroscopy and microscopy (Amsterdam, Leiden). The broad coverage this consortium enables, plus the excellent track record of the groups involved, mean this Dutch programme is one of the major players in the global research scene into complex oxide 2-DEGs.

The focus of this new programme - which builds on the success of an earlier complex oxide heterointerface FOM-programme ('InterPhase') - is on tailoring the electronic and magnetic properties of complex oxide thin films, generating novel materials combinations and employing advanced device structures.

Within this national programme, the Amsterdam group:

  • Mark S. Golden, full professor
  • Hermann A. Dürr, adjunct professor in Amsterdam; HAD's main position is at the SIMES, the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences at SLAC (Menlo Park, California)
  • Erik van Heumen, assistant professor, leader of the optics lab

is responsible for using state-of-the-art electron and X-ray spectroscopies to investigate the electronic structure and magnetism in 2D complex oxide systems and their (hetero)interfaces. We are recruiting for a highly motivated and talented physicist to join our team as a PhD researcher, who will grow into the driver's seat of Dutch spectroscopic research into complex oxide 2-DEG systems.

Job description

This PhD researcher's work will focus on the experimental investigation of the electronic structure and magnetic properties of complex oxide thin films and their heterointerfaces. (S)he will become expert in the use of state-of-the art electron spectroscopic and soft (and hard) X-ray techniques that give a direct window on the electronic states of the 2-DEGs. Through close collaboration with the thin film synthesis team and with the other programme partners also investigating the very same samples, the research of the PhD candidate can contribute to breakthroughs in our understanding of how to tailor and tune the properties of these promising systems, and how efficient switching of heterointerface devices can pave the way to the era of oxide electronics.

The research will mainly involve angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES), high-resolution core level spectroscopy (using both hard and soft X-rays), as well as resonant and dichroic X-ray absorption and scattering techniques. This project calls for a young scientist with a passion for physics, a desire to be involved in cutting-edge research in a globally fast moving and competitive field and someone keen to pick up and master complex experiments, also in the context of international large-scale facilities (light sources).

Armed with a collaborative, communicative and open mind-set, the PhD researcher will be able make the most of the excellent opportunities for joint research with the other partners of the Dutch national programme on this topic, and the same characteristics will also ensure rapid crystallisation of an effective 'complex oxide team', together with a postdoc we are about to recruit for, also funded from the same FOM-programme.

The Amsterdam lab has first rate facilities for ARPES, core level photoemission, scanning tunnelling microscopy & spectroscopy, as well as optical spectroscopy, and all of these experiments are part of the plans within the complex oxide programme. Samples of the highest quality are grown in Twente and are transported to the Amsterdam (or light source) labs using a purpose-built 'UHV-suitcase', so enabling surface sensitive experiments and the determination of the true ground state properties of the thin film systems, without the distorting effects of air exposure/water adsorption, etc.. Experiments will also take place at leading light sources within Europe (e.g. BESSY-II at the Helmholtz Center Berlin or PETRA III at DESY in Hamburg), and the link to Prof. Dürr's group at SLAC will facilitate advanced X-ray imaging experiments at the SSRL (SLAC) and possibly also lead to success in gaining access to the unique X-ray laser LCLS (SLAC). All these activities bring the added advantage of hands-on experience of working at international large scale user facilities, and the huge international network this brings with it.


Measured on citation impact, Dutch physics research is among the very best in the world. The FOM-PhD position will be hosted by QMat Amsterdam, the hard condensed matter research cluster within the Van der Waals-Zeeman Institute, a division of the IoP at the University of Amsterdam. The group's research focuses on the experimental investigation of the electronic structure and properties of quantum matter and emergent materials. The systems we work on are at the forefront of fundamental solid state physics research, but also possess potential for eventual application in future technologies connected to energy (superconductors), spintronics (topological insulators, magnetoresistive systems) and nanoscience (1D systems, oxide heterointerfaces).

The IoP is situated in new, purpose-built labs in the Science Park campus that houses the Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam. The Science Park also plays host to numerous national research institutes such as AMOLF (nanophotonics, biomolecular systems, photovoltaics), NIKHEF (Subatomic Physics) and CWI (mathematics and Computer Science), and so the day-to-day environment of the PhD researcher is a dynamic and globally extremely well connected centre for science research. Amsterdam itself is an intellectually vibrant, creative, multicultural and internationally-oriented city of great beauty, and forms an ideal and safe backdrop for a young PhD researcher's transition to become a full-blooded researcher and expert in experimental physics. As mentioned already, regular trips to synchrotron light sources in Europe (and also in the US) will be an integral part of this research job.

Once per quarter, the whole FOM-programme community ('2-dimensional electron systems in complex oxides') meets to share ideas and data, and to set the points for future collaborative research. This means the other PhD and postdoc researchers (with their supervisors) forms an important, additional community in which the PhD researcher will operate and grow.


M.Sc. in physics (experiment or theory) or from a physics-heavy chemistry or materials programme is required. Applicants with a degree in chemistry or materials science are also requested to detail their affinity with condensed matter physics and motivation for pursuing a Ph.D in experimental physics.

Other skills/experiences/documents that would benefit the application are:

  • previous laboratory experience using a form of spectroscopy;
  • working knowledge of a programming language (python, C++ or equivalent);
  • good knowledge of theoretical condensed matter physics;
  • very good English oral and written communication skills;
  • scientific publications and/or a reference letter from MSc. thesis advisor

Conditions of employment

When fulfilling a PhD position at the FOM foundation, you will get the status of junior scientist.
You will have an employee status and can participate in all the employee benefits FOM offers. You will get a contract for 4 years. Your salary will be up to a maximum of 2,718 euro gross per month.The salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8.33%.
You are supposed to have a thesis finished at the end of your four year term with FOM.
A training programme is part of the agreement. You and your supervisor will make up a plan for the additional education and supervising that you specifically need. This plan also defines which teaching activities you will be responsible (up to a maximum of 10% of your time). The conditions of employment of the FOM-foundation are laid down in the Collective Labour Agreement for Research Centres (Cao-Onderzoekinstellingen), more exclusive information is available at this website under Personeelsinformatie (in Dutch) or under Personnel (in English).
General information about working at FOM can be found in the English part of this website under Personnel. The 'FOM job interview code' applies to this position.


The applications window on the FOM webpage for this position has closed. We are currently going through the applications. If you still want to try and squeeze an application in - then hurry!. Send the following to me via email:

A cv, list of publications, contact coordinates of at least three references and a motivation as to why you candidate wish to join the group to do this project (maximum one A4). Applications without this motivation statement will not be considered, but those including this will get our full attention.

All documents should be in the form of .pdf files, no .doc or .docx, please (we won't open them).

Prof.dr. Mark S. Golden
Van der Waals-Zeeman Institute
University of Amsterdam

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