I have an opening for a PhD position. The position is for four years, and is funded by a VIDI grant from the NWO (the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research). Informal queries (not applications!) regarding the position can be addressed to me at n.olver@vu.nl.

See my research and publications pages for an idea of my research interests, which lie primarily in fundamental mathematical aspects of algorithms and discrete optimization. Possible projects include the following.

  • Network connectivity. Given a network, and a specified subset of nodes in the network called terminals, a very basic network design problem is the Steiner tree problem— find the cheapest way of connecting the terminals. There is a lot we still do not understand about this seemingly basic problem!
  • Network design under uncertain demands. What is the best way of building a communication or transport network to handle varied and uncertain demand patterns? The robust network design model provides one framework for considering these problems, and there are many challenging but beautiful open problems in this area.
  • Network flow algorithms. Flow problems, such as maximum flow, minimum cost flow, and generalized flow, are amongst the most fundamental and classical ones in combinatorial optimization. Finding better algorithms – faster, simpler, “strongly polynomial” – remains an important and popular pursuit.
  • Derandomizing fast algorithms. There has been a lot of exciting activity in the last few years on much faster algorithms for fundamental optimization problems like network flows and linear programming. Many of these techniques rely heavily on randomization. Can this be avoided? Are there purely deterministic algorithms that perform as well?


The opening is within the Department of Econometrics & Operations Research of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Our group consists of a number of researchers working on theoretical problems in combinatorial optimization and algorithms, motivated by real-world applications. I am also affiliated with the Networks & Optimization group at CWI (the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands), and the successful candidate would be encouraged to interact and collaborate with the group there. Algorithms and optimization is thriving in Amsterdam, and there are a large number of faculty, postdocs and students in the vicinity.

The position includes generous travel funding, including the opportunity to attend top conferences in Europe and North America, and to collaborate internationally. Amsterdam is a beautiful, lively, and exceptionally liveable city. Amsterdam is very international, and English is almost universally spoken. The gross monthly salary, for an employee on a full time basis, is 2266 during the first year and increases to 2897 over the four year period. In addition to this, there is a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.33%.

Requirements and application procedure

Applicants should have (or expect to soon have) a masters degree in mathematics, computer science, or operations research. Some experience in topics related to optimization, algorithms, theoretical computer science, graph theory, or algorithmic game theory is a plus. However, the main requirement is a strong mathematical background, and an interest and curiosity in theoretical questions. Concrete real-world applications, while not excluded, are not a focus of this project. Proficiency in English is a requirement; Dutch language skills are not needed. There is some flexibility in the starting date of the position, but it must commence before September 2019.

Please send your application to: apply@nolver.net, with the subject line “PhD Application”.

All applications received by December 28th will receive full consideration. However, applications will be accepted until the position has been filled.

Applications should include the following.

  1. A motivation letter, indicating your research interests and the reasons for your interest in this position.
  2. A detailed CV.
  3. Academic transcript from your bachelor’s and master’s studies (all available).
  4. A copy of (or link to) your master’s thesis, if available.
  5. At least one (and preferably two) recommendation letters, which can be sent directly to the same email address by your reference(s). Please ask your references to include your name in the subject line of the email.

All included files must be in PDF format.