Within the Electa division at the Department of Electrical Engineering (ESAT) at KU Leuven, and EnergyVille, the research team led by prof. Dirk Van Hertem focuses on power system protection and optimization-based methods for planning and operation of future power systems using HVDC.

The project considers one of the key challenges of the ongoing energy transition - future electricity transmission systems - and will specifically examine multi-GW energy hubs (also known as energy islands) to collect massive amounts of renewable energy. In this PhD project, work will be focused on the development of new mathematical and computational techniques to design and analyze energy hub configurations.

Recent developments in power system design and analysis are driven by advances in the field of optimization and machine learning methods. Nevertheless, power systems, and especially protection against short-circuits, present a challenge for application of these methods as on the one hand little data is available, simulations are computationally expensive, and a very high degree of accuracy must be achieved. Furthermore, the fault detection and identification methods used in power system protection will see a shift from deterministic to probabilistic methods, where brute-force design and analysis methods are no longer suitable. Advances in the field of machine learning, including physics-informed neural networks as well as approximate inference methods, have unlocked opportunities for tackling these challenges. This PhD will push the frontiers of research in power system protection by using cutting-edge machine learning methods to answer the question of how to shift from deterministic to probabilistic analysis of protection and analyzing its functioning in a computationally feasible way.


  • You have obtained a M.Sc. Degree in Electrical Engineering or related, with a high interest in probabilistic analysis and machine learning, or Computer Sciences with an interest in power systems, from a reputable institute (within the European Economic Area).
  • You are communicative and motivated to work in a team with activities centered on optimization and power system protection.
  • You have experience with methods in optimization and machine learning, and programming in Python. Experience with power system simulation software, with a focus on electromagnetic transient simulation (e.g. PSCAD,EMTP-rv, …), is a plus.
  • You are able to communicate fluently in English, both orally and in writing. Knowledge of the Dutch language is a plus.

We offer an exciting job in one of the leading research institutes in the field of power systems. The PhD candidate will have the ability to use state-of-the-art real-time simulation equipment and will be immersed in a team with long-term expertise in the fields of optimization and power system protection. The project will also allow you to interact with experts of the Belgian transmission power system operator Elia. After completing the PhD, you will have built the necessary mathematical skills and have acquired the right technological insights for tackling the power engineering challenges of the future.